From food waste to high protein animal feed – why you should consider black soldier fly farming

E Squared investee Nambu Group, shows how business can be good for the environment. 

Read more about Black Soldier Fly farming and how it helps create a sustainable, circular, and domestically produced feed, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imports and unsustainably produced feed in this Business Insider article.

Balck Soldier fly up close (Nambu)Black Soldier Fly up close (Nambu)

  • Black soldier fly farming is a beneficial type of farming in which black soldier fly larvae is used to convert food waste into protein rich feed for other animals.
  • This type of farming helps create sustainable animal feed, while also helping reduce harmful greenhouse gasses that would have been emitted by food waste at landfill sites.
  • Unlike normal houseflies, black solider flies do not have mouths to eat and feed only in their larvae state.
  • They are very shy, prefer to be away from urban areas and look more like wasps than regular houseflies.

Back soldier fly farming is a type of farming in which larvae from black soldier flies is used to convert food waste into nutritious animal feed, and it is more beneficial than creepy.  

Larvae from black soldier flies can be used as alternative animal feed, as opposed to resorting to traditional animal feed which can be unsustainable in some instances.Black Soldier Flies (Nambu)Black Soldier Flies (Nambu)

When you think of black soldier flies you probably immediately think of pests that are not only irritating but transport germs from one source to another. Well, you may be wrong.

Black soldier flies are different. Unlike regular houseflies, they do not have mouths and cannot bite or feed on waste, they just lay their eggs and go about their business.

They only feed in their larvae state and release pheromones that help keep houseflies away.

“The normal housefly is a pest species. It lands on your food, and then on your face, and then on your friend’s face, and spreads disease between people and animals in that way.BSF Larvae (Nambu)BSF Larvae (Nambu)

“The black soldier fly, on the other hand, physically looks different, more like a wasp than a fly. They’re very shy and don’t like to be around urban areas. If you find them there they’ll normally be out in the veld,” said black soldier fly farm owner and agricultural economist Lowell Scarr.

Scarr, who is the founder of Nambu, a company that produces feed for chicken and pigs, says black soldier fly farming helps recycle food waste that otherwise would be left to rot in landfills and harm the environment, and also creates sustainable animal feed.  

According to Averda, a local waste management services provider, South Africa produces shocking amounts of food waste each year. South Africans waste up to a third of all food produced.

This means around 10 million tonnes (10 billion kilograms) that usually end up in our refuse dumps, releasing methane after decomposing and rotting, thereby contributing to further damage to the climate.

All that food goes to waste over time, and the energy and resources that went into producing it is a real issue, explained Scarr. This is where black soldier flies come in.

“The black soldier flies offer the opportunity to recycle those waste streams. Instead of throwing them away, we can turn them into a high-value protein oil… and then put that back into the food system as feed,” said Scarr.

Through this process, fewer greenhouse gasses are produced. It also reduces the burden on the municipal garbage disposal, and, as done at Nambu, rapidly repurposes nutrients that would otherwise be lost.

Black soldier fly farming also helps create a sustainable, circular, and domestically produced feed, thereby reducing the country’s dependence on imports and unsustainably produced feed.

This, for example, is because the larvae help in reducing the use of fishmeal as a protein source for other types of fish, eradicating the problem of unsustainable feed imports.  BSF Larvae (Nambu)BSF Larvae (Nambu)

“Essentially we’re catching wild fish to grow farm fish. On average about 1.1 units of wild fish are used to produce one unit of farm fish.

“It’s highly inefficient, especially if we’ve already got a problem of overfishing. The use of fish to feed fish is counterproductive,” said Scarr.

Larvae from black soldier flies is a natural component of the diet of poultry such as chickens, pigs, fish, exotic pets such as birds, geckoes, bearded dragons, and a range of other livestock.

BSF farming sector

Black soldier flies are highly space-efficient so starting your own small-scale farm likely won’t require a lot.

“From a commercial perspective, you’re gonna need capital to start off,” said Scarr.

For those who are looking to farm in their own backyard to feed their chickens, you’ll need old existing space such as a garage, a shed, a breeding cage, waste food source, and between R5,000 to R10,000. Training is also crucial.

“Realistically, the way that I went about it, I started literally on a stoep at home, with one cage of flies I’d speak to them every day, like ‘come on guys, you’ve got to lay eggs,”’ said Scarr.

The farmer, who had no background in farming or agriculture when he started, explained that aspiring black soldier fly farmers learn a lot of things on the job.

For example, you learn about how they behave, their likes and dislikes, what makes them lay eggs and what doesn’t, where they lay their eggs, what the larvae like to eat. As you get the hang of how best to handle them, then you can upscale.

Source: Phumi Ramalepe, Business Insider SA Jan 30, 2022