Clusters of silkworms munch on piles of locally-grown mulberry leaves in a white marquee in Italy's northern Veneto region. They are nourishing hopes of a revival of Italy's 1,000 year-old silk industry.
Decades after Veneto's last silk mills were shuttered as a post-war economic boom lured farmers to cities, budding silkmakers - or "sericulturists" - are trying to spin a niche around a traceable supply chain of high-quality material.
Even as Chinese silk production looks set to decline, the fledgling industry in Europe faces its own challenges.
The silkmakers also worry about the future of the government-owned agricultural research centre in Padua, near Venice, where they work. The centre may be moved as part of a country-wide reorganisation of agricultural research aimed at improving efficiency.
Relocation may endanger the live organisms and waste money poured thus far into the project, says the Padua centre’s chief researcher Silvia Cappellozza.
These are the crazy things people do in Italy. They say let's contain public spending and they try to do it like this, she said, forlornly surveying the racks of fattening worms.
"The whole production chain is starting again here in Veneto. All of this would be lost."