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Stephen Chen writes in The South China Post that the world’s largest cockroach farm is using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to breed 6 billion adult cockroaches a year. They are the raw materials of the production process for a cockroach-based “healing potion” that the government says is consumed by millions in China. The system constantly collects and analyzes humidity, temperature, food supply and consumption. It monitors genetic mutations and how these affect the growing rates of individual cockroaches.

Might there be any problems?

Zhu Chaodong, the Institute of Zoology’s lead scientist in insect evolution studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said it would be a catastrophe if billions of cockroaches were suddenly released into the environment – be it through human error or a natural disaster like an earthquake that damaged the building. There are also concerns that the farm’s intensive reproduction and genetic screening would accelerate the insect’s evolution and produce “super-cockroaches”, of abnormal size and breeding capability, although Zhu said this was unlikely to happen.

What do they do with their billions of cockroaches?

When they reach the desired weight and size, the cockroaches are fed into machines and crushed to make the potion, which is said to have remarkable effects on stomach pain and other ailments. The potion has a tea-like color, tastes “slightly sweet” and has “a slightly fishy smell”, according to the product’s packaging.

What’s next? Raid-Ade?

When asked if the energy-efficient cockroach crystals might end up in other products for humans, Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India, described the potential as fantastic. “I could see them in protein drinks,” he said. Then he added, “In principle, it should be fine, but today we have no evidence that it is actually safe for human consumption.”

There is no evidence this potion is a cure for anything.

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