Have you had a taste of fried crickets, termites, beetles, caterpillars, ants, or grasshoppers? These are one of the ‘delicacies’ enjoyed by many both as staple and traditional diet across the globe because of its nutritional value which comprises proteins, healthy fats, iron and calcium. With the global population expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050 according to the World Bank and the impact of climate change expected to reduce crop yields by more than 25%, coupled with limited arable land, there is an urgent need to identify alternative sources of food to combat malnutrition and enhance food security.
Today, insect farming is gaining traction in Africa, especially amongst the youth to produce animal and aquaculture feeds as well as organic fertilizers. Insects are preferred because they put less strain on land and water, have a low carbon footprint, high nutrition value and source of livelihoods to many families.
The Black Soldier Fly farming is more common and is mostly used in recycling organic waste into high quality proteins and fat for livestock feed and organic fertilizer for crop production. The World bank estimates up to to $2.6bn and $2.6bn of annual revenue is generated from its crude protein and biofertilizer respectively.
Life cycle of Black Soldier Fly
The four life stages of the Black Soldier Fly are egg, larva, pupa and adult. The eggs hatch into larva which are fed into organic waste for a span of 14 days to enable it to acquire nutrients from the waste and bio-convert it into protein, fat and minerals which are stored in their bodies. Once ready, larva is harvested and used as a protein supplement in feeding poultry, fish and pigs. Frass is the residue excrete of larva after feeding on organic waste and it is often used as a soil amendment in crop farming.
The pupa stage is characterized by change of color in larvae into brown or black and they actively crawl out of wet subrates. At this stage, they are kept dry in a dark area and after 21-28 days, the black active stage (pre -pupa) hardens and becomes dormant (pupa). It takes up to 7 days for pupa to transform into flies (adult) which do not feed but survive on nutrients conserved during the larval stage. The cycle continues after reproduction.
It is promising to see emerging agri-startups led by youth in Africa venture into insect farming leading to mindset shift on its consumption (value added products) and increased awareness on the benefits of insect farming in the agriculture sector; caution should however be taken when consuming edible insects because not all are safe for human consumption. Some youth agripreneurs have also urged lawmakers to introduce legislation on safeguarding a safe and sustainable insect food industry that is hampering commercialization of their products in their respective countries.
Meet some of the GoGettaz who have ventured into insect farming!
Traditionally, farmers have been growing soybeans as a major source of proteins for their livestock. However today it’s no longer a preference because of concerns on the amount of pesticides used, need to protect biodiversity, and reduce emission of greenhouse gasses.
Costantine Edward Herman, CEO AgriLife produces eco-friendly animal feeds that contains up to 54% protein which makes them a better, sustainable, and more affordable option than soybean or fishmeal. The startup is utilizing the Black Soldier Fly which a rich source of protein for animal feeds while recycling organic waste into organic fertilizer and eco-friendly animal feed through a natural and easily scalable process
AgriLife has also developed a novel patentable Black Soldier Fly breeding technology that reduces its pupation period from 30 – 60 days to only 10 days enabling them to industrialize their production. Together with an integration of cross cutting-edge technology that involves data analytics artificial intelligence, AgriLife collects farm data and uses analytics to adjust parameters for better farm productivity.
On waste management, AgriLife utilizes a waste-to-nutrient insect technology using Black Soldier Fly larvae to up-cycle organic waste into organic fertilizer for crops nourishment and sustainable protein ingredients for the poultry and aqua-feeds industry.
Plans are also underway to diversify their production by venturing into cricket farming to increase nutritional value in their foods.
In Tanzania, farmers spent close to 70% of their production costs on fishmeal and soybean for fish and poultry because of high protein content. On the other hand, up to 9,000MT of waste is produced daily in Dar es Salaam and this is expected to rise by 15,000MT per day by 2030. To address these challenges, Diana Orembe, CEO NovFeed uses innovative chemical free biotechnology to repurpose food waste into high quality bacteria-based protein fodder with harvest done after 48 hours.
The biotechnology provides a conducive environment for multiplication of bacteria which breaks down the waste into protein fodder. The remains of bacteria are harvested, inactivated and thereafter dried into protein powder.
NovFeed’s client base comprises animal feed manufacturers, who purchase its bacteria-based protein fodder in bulk and have equipment to produce animal feeds.
Ecodudu Limited, Kenya is a feed manufacturing and fertilizer producing company that uses Black Soldier Fly insect technology to recycle organic waste into high protein animal feed and fertilizer for high value crops.
The startup conducts regular training to farmers on how to raise black soldier fly eggs to larva larva stage. Once farmers graduate, they buy black soldier fly eggs from Ecodudu, take care of eggs till they hatch into larvae when the nutrients in them are at maximum level. This is the right time to feed them to the chicken before they transit to pupal stage when the nutrient level in them starts dropping. The feed is best for indigenous chicken who source their own food.
Prosect Feed Ltd-Ghana
In Ghana, local poultry farmers have been struggling to compete with cheap imports of animal feed because of the high production cost. To save farmers from losses, Nana Yaw Antwi-Boasiako co-founder Prosect Feed Ltd developed a new way of turning organic waste into affordable poultry feed using insect larvae.
All organic waste obtained is put in a solar powered drying tent to remove moisture. The waste is completely dried, milled into powder before it’s stored in hermetic sacks or plastic storage units to ensure there is no stench or moisture that attracts pests or supports breeding in the case of houseflies. Frass is also sold as organic fertilizer to vegetable and fruit farmers.
ProSect Feed Ltd recently launched an out-growers program to help farmers make additional income from their organic waste that would instead have ended in landfills or burnt by farmers increasing carbon footprint into the environment. The startup also buys organic waste from farmers they have trained and convert into protein as a way to supplement their income.
In Morocco, about 96% of organic agricultural inputs (biofertilizers and bio-pesticides) are imported from the European Union and sold through their distribution offices or by local distributors supplying such products according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Lombrisol is using a new technology known as bioreactor that converts bio waste into organic fertilizer by composting and vermicomposting. a bioreactor permits the automation of the vermicomposting process for continuous production of biofertilizers.
This has contributed to a clean environment,reduction of water-born diseases and good air and groundwater quality. On the environmental side, there has been a reduction in emission of greenhouse gasses and more preservation of biodiversity.
Lombrisol generates its revenue by recycling organic waste produced by municipalities, hotels, restaurants and agro-industrial companies; agricultural consulting services for farmers on composting and vermicomposting processes for communities on proper waste management and sale of bioreactor for continuous vermicomposting.
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