Only In China – The World’s Largest Insect Farm, Producing 6 Billion Cockroaches Annually

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Apr 20 2018
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China is home to the world’s largest factories. Whatever you can think of, chances are China has the factory for it. Chinese products seem to be everywhere that people no longer ask if the goods they are about to buy is made in China. Unless its military toys such as F-22 Raptor or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet, by default, all the products have China finger prints on them.


China might be the most populated nation in the world but even the 1.4-billion Chinese are no match to another species – cockroach. Six billion cockroaches are being bred each year through AI (artificial intelligence) at a Chinese farm. According to the Chinese government, the insects are being bred for a “healing potion” taken by millions of patients in China.


This might only happen in a Hollywood sci-fi film, but if the colony of the cockroaches ever escapes, it would certainly cause a “catastrophe” for the nearly 800,000 people living in nearby Xichang in Sichuan province. That’s a scary ratio of about 7,500 cockroaches to a Chinese resident. The potions are said to have “remarkable effects” on stomach pain and other ailments though.

China Largest Cockroach Farm

Traditionally, cockroaches have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. A local Chinese government report claims that more than 40 million patients from 4,000 hospitals have been cured of respiratory, gastric and other diseases after taking the potion on prescription. The pests, which have existed since the age of dinosaurs, are also a rich source of protein for livestock feed.


As far back as 2013, Chinese farms were reportedly multiplying – replacing chicken coop with an entirely different kind of livestock, cockroaches. Dried cockroaches were selling for as much as US$20 a pound – a tenfold increase from merely US$2 just three years earlier in 2010. Back then, 6 farms could produce only 10 million cockroaches.


Breeding cockroaches is more profitable than raising pigs or chickens. Cockroach farmers could get 150 Yuan from just 20 Yuan investment – a whopping 650% ROI (return on investment). Unlike butchering a pig, killing the cockroaches are much simpler. Just scoop them out of their nests, dunk them in boiling water and dried them under the sun, and voila, they’re ready to be sold.

Cockroach Farming

Nowadays, cockroach farms have gone high-tech. They are housed in a fully-sealed large warehouse controlled by AI (artificial intelligence) – but fully pampered with warm, humid and dark environment for optimum reproduction. Data, covering 80 categories, such as food-supply, consumption, temperature and humidity are collected to ensure the cockroaches thrive.


The smart system also monitors any genetic mutations as well as every individual insect’s growth rate. Conditions are automatically adjusted to improve optimal production. This giant farm in the city of Xichang, in south-western Sichuan province, is believed to be one of its kinds in China, and perhaps in the world. For every square foot, a staggering 28,000 cockroaches are bred annually.


Dr Zhang Wei, former assistant researcher at the College of Mechanical Engineering at Zhejiang University, who was involved in developing the AI system, told the South China Morning Post – “There is nothing likes it in the world. It has used some unique solutions to address some unique issues.”

China Cockroach Business - Fried in Sticks

The farm, operated by the Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group of Chengdu, Sichuan, allows very few visitors. A visitor must change into a sanitised working suit to avoid bringing in pollutants or pathogens. Besides the nearby 800,000 residents, the farm is also located close to Xichang’s Qingshan airport. Hence, the multiple lines of defence in place to prevent a grand escape of the insects.


Because cockroaches multiply incredibly quickly in warm, humid climates like Xichang, just a dozen of the pests could infest an entire neighbourhood, let alone 6 billions of them. However, Professor Zhu Chaodong, head of insect evolution studies at the Institute of Zoology in Beijing, has very little concern about the farm accidently producing “super cockroaches”.


Therefore, fears the genetic screening and rapid reproduction at the farm could cause “super cockroaches” are unlikely because they have already survived hundreds of other animals becoming extinct, including the dinosaurs. Zhu said – “Mother Nature has already done its job. There is little room left for us to make improvements. Every cockroach is a super-cockroach”.

The Cockroach Man

Get real, Spider Man doesn’t exist so the prospect of accidently creating a mutant Cockroach Man is close to zero. Nevertheless, the risks are worth it for China. The farm had generated a total of 4.3 billion Yuan (US$684 million) in revenue over the years by manufacturing a potion made entirely of cockroaches. How was the potion being done?


When the insects reach the desired weight and size, they are tossed into that grind them up and turn them into a paste. Selling at 50 Yuan (US$8) for a pack of 2 bottles of 100ml, the much sought after “magic potion” is supposed to heal gastrointestinal and respiratory problems. According to its product’s packaging, the potion has a tea-like colour, tastes “slightly sweet” and has “a slightly fishy smell”.

China Cockroach Business - Good Doctor Potion


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