This is a post written by Domantas Tracevicius who is involved a lot in waste recycling, sewage sludge management and composting. Recently, he registered his start-up company Insectum in Lithuania and joined other insect growers in International Platform for Insects as Food and Feed (IPIFF), which feature many insect growers, including other BSF larvae growers, such as Agriprotein in South Africa, Protix in Netherlands, Hermetia Baruth in Germany, Hipromine in Poland and many more. Domantas proposes the use of insects, as a natural waste treatment method for food waste, in order to transform food waste to a very useful product. I am sure you will enjoy his post!
“Around 88 million tons of food is wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. European commission is trying to tackle it with FUSIONS project with reduction in wasting, redistribution to people in need and reuse of former foodstuff as animal feed. But what if the pre-consumer food waste is not suitable for usual farm animals? If, for example, the foods are long past due date, are rotten or have mold? Conventionally, best option for it would be to anaerobically digest it and then compost it. But there is a better way! If we look at some of the species of insects, such as Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), they can not only solve some of our pre-consumer food waste, but also be a sustainable source of proteins for humans and animals.
Besides mentioned food waste issues, EU is also importing about 70 % of protein rich animal feed. This together with phosphate imports makes whole EU agriculture industry dependent on imports. And that is not all, as our livestock has poor feed conversion ratio, emit large quantities of GHG, require large space to be grown and need even a lot more space and water for their feed and finally a lot of antibiotics are given to livestock threaten us with antibiotic resistance.
All those problems seemed for me as very serious and threatening future sustainability of our planet. But at the beginning of 2016 I have read an article about Dutch company Protix, which was developing food waste treatment using black soldier fly and producing feed. This to me sounded as a win-win solution. So, I myself decided to try to rear these flies. After a good half a year, I can report some of my findings, that:
- It is possible to recover proteins from food waste! All black soldier fly larvae do is eating. And they can eat a very wide variety of food waste, growing from being about 0.02 mg up to 250-300 mg in just 20 days. Depending from waste BSF larvae have a conversion ratio of 1:5-10 and contain about 18 % of proteins (from live mass). Those larvae can be used as feed alive, dried or extracted.
- Growing uses very intense land area. Black soldier fly larvae grow very quickly on a very small area. About one ton of larvae per month can be harvested from 10 m2.
- No methane emissions. Methane being a very potent GHG is a by-product from livestock such as cows and pigs, but BSF larvae do not emit any methane emissions virtually making them with a very little carbon footprint.
- Low water usage. Most of the water required is obtained from the organic waste themselves.
- Circular process. By feeding food waste to BSF larvae we do not only harvest the larvae themselves, we also get their skin, which is made entirely from chitin and can be transformed to chitosan, which has various applications in wastewater treatment and medicine, and humus, which is an ecological fertiliser.
There are still a lot of regulatory framework needs changes before black soldier fly larvae become a common feed in the agriculture, but word is out, that as soon as April 2017 BSF larvae proteins will be allowed as feed in aquaculture opening massive possibilities for growth and investment.”
Some interesting links: