Image Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com
The ability of the black soldier fly (BSF) (Hermetia illucens) to convert low-grade organic waste into high-quality nutrients has opened-up a ground-breaking prospect for the large-scale production of animal feed. The high protein content of insects provides an immense opportunity to develop sustainable technology for the production of animal feed at a low cost.
This article emphasizes the technological advancements in the production of feed using BSF larvae. These insect-based proteins can be used to feed pig, fish, and poultry as an alternative to expensive soya bean or fishmeal. Recently, larvae of BSF have been reared as a feed.
Role of Black Soldier Fly (BSF)
The BSF is commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The larvae of BSF can be easily reared on fruits and vegetable wastes, human excrements, and animal manure.
The BSF larva can be cultured on organic wastes, which would otherwise create environmental pollution when disposed of at dumpsites. This ends up in a significant reduction of waste and production of high-grade protein-containing nutritional quality insect biomass.
BSF larvae can convert around 30 metric tons of organic substrate (food waste) to approximately 10 metric tons and produce 930 kg of dry biomass in one day. While analyzing the protein content, it was found that the percentage of crude protein was significantly high, which can be easily compared with fishmeal and soybean meal.
BSF is known to be a harmless insect as it does not act as a vector of diseases. Mature BSF does not cause any nuisance or attract human habitats. These characteristic features of BSF make it a potential component for the development of BSF-based technology for the production of high-quality animal feed.
Major Challenges in the Sustainable Development of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) Based Technology
As discussed earlier, the main aim of BSFL-based technology is the conversion of organic waste to larval biomass that has high nutrient value.
It also produces raw materials for manufacturing fertilizers, soil conditioners, lubricants, and biodiesel. This technology also results in a sustainable waste-management process.
The main factors that affect the sustainability and scalability of this technology in the production of high-quality wastes and the down-stream application of products (for example, live-feed for aquaculture) are listed below:
- Poor waste management practices. This includes a lack of proper organic waste segregation, incentives for landfill disposal, and complex collection and transport logistics.
- The use of dissimilar wastes from various sources harms the growth of BSFL. This involves the production of animal feed with variable and unfavorable nutrient content. These conditions hamper the entire performance of waste treatment.
AgriProtein- BSF Based Company
AgriProtein is an innovative insect technology using BSF to upcycle organic waste into a high protein, superior quality animal feed.
The main aim of AgriProtein is to lower the generation of organic waste, which harms the environment. AgriProtein products provide a high-quality, sustainable, and natural alternative to vegetable oils and fishmeal.
In 2008, AgriProtein envisioned the establishment of an industry based on nutrient upcycling technology using insects. Its first pilot plant was set at the Elsenburg in Stellenbosch in 2010, which helped it develop a network with many international organizations, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Universities of Stellenbosch and Alicante, and Texas A&M. Its breakthrough came in 2011 when its plant could produce 100 kg of high-quality insect protein in one day.
The company has secured global partners throughout the world and has offices in the UK, Singapore, USA, India, and Hong Kong. It has recently acquired a Europe-based company called Circular Organics.
Read more: Yume and Suez's Solution for Tackling Commercial Food Waste
Steps Undertaken for Maximum Production by AgriProtein
- Collection of organic food waste from local supermarkets, food-based factories, farms and restaurants. These organic wastes are analyzed by different means, such as software, to provide safe and suitable feed for the larvae.
- The flies are maintained in a biologically secured zone and are controlled with the help of advanced digital technology. The cages for the flies are designed by incorporating ideas from years of research, implementing observations of entomologists and engineers for maximum production of eggs. They also ensure the welfare of the flies.
- The entomologists use flies with the strongest genetic strains at the same time as maintaining population diversity.
- The cages contain a specific light system that mimics dawn and dusk. This ensures maximum production of eggs across each cubic meter of cage space.
- When the eggs become juvenile larvae, they feed on the specialized substrate at optimal conditions. The weight of the insects increases remarkably, i.e., about 200 times in just 10 days.
- The insects are monitored keenly from hatch to harvest, with regard to their well-being, feed quality, survival rates, and bioconversion.
Products of AgriProtein
The final step involves the separation of the larvae and the substrate, and directing them towards the various processes to manufacture different products. To maintain their superior quality and safety, the products are analyzed with different scientific testing forms internally and by independent organizations. Some of the high-quality commercial products of larvae and frass (larval residue) are discussed below:
MagMeal: This is an insect-based protein that is made up of BSF larvae. MagMeal can be used as feed for chickens, fish, and pets (monogastric animals). This feed contains 55% protein with a highly digestible blend of essential amino acids.
MagOil: This is a pure natural oil prepared from BSF larvae. This oil has a high concentration of lauric acid. MagOil is mainly used as aquaculture feed, pet food and can be used as an alternative to fish oil, coconut and palm oil.
MagSoil: This is an organic soil conditioner prepared from the larval residue or compost. MagSoil contains high nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K), which is essential to maintain soil fertility.
Find out more: Using Food Waste to Develop Sustainable Plant-Based Ingredients
BSF-based technology can play a significant role in uplifting the economic condition of lower- and middle-income tropical countries utilizing their favorable climatic conditions. As the initial capital investments are low, this technology provides an excellent opportunity to improve livelihood and initiate a circular economy for small-scale insect farmers.
References and Further Reading
da Silva, G.D.P., and Hesselberg, T. (2020). A Review of the Use of Black Soldier Fly Larvae, Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), to Compost Organic Waste in Tropical Regions. Neotrop Entomol. 49, 151–162 https://doi.org/10.1007/s13744-019-00719-z
Gold, M. (2020). Biowaste treatment with black soldier fly larvae: Increasing performance through the formulation of biowastes based on protein and carbohydrates. Waste Management. 102, 319-329. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.10.036
Chia, S.Y., et al. (2019). Insects for sustainable animal feed: inclusive business models involving smallholder farmers. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. 41, 23-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2019.09.003
AgriProtein. [Online] Available at: https://www.agriprotein.com/ (Accessed on 20 July 2020).