From Larvae to Chicken Feed: What’s New with Black Soldier Fly Research

In 2019, the SOIL Research Team began testing out the possibility of using black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) as a new, additional method of transforming waste from our EkoLakay sanitation service into another valuable resource.

Led by SOIL Waste-to-Resource Consultant, Michèle Heeb, SOIL experimented with BSFL at our composting site in Northern Haiti and found that our EkoLakay waste was indeed suitable for this exciting technology. The Research Team even managed to breed the flies in captivity, a prerequisite for the technology to work on a large scale. These promising results made us hopeful that this innovative waste-to-resource technology could eventually become an additional stream of revenue for SOIL’s waste treatment operations.

Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 forced the research team to halt the pilot trials and the research has been on hold – until now! We are excited to announce that we are resuming the black soldier fly research and we hope to provide exciting updates over this year.

What are black soldier flies…exactly?

Black soldier flies are a type of fly whose larvae have the potential to transform organic waste into a protein-packed, valuable end product: animal feed! The flies are native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Once the flies reach the adult stage they do not take up or ingest food, and therefore do not spread disease. The larvae, however, eat voraciously and grow from being barely visible to about one inch during the larval stage, which lasts about two weeks. 

Thanks to these characteristics, black soldier fly larvae are a great tool for transforming organic waste into new resources.  Under the right circumstances, black soldier fly larvae can significantly reduce waste material and convert it into larval biomass, i.e., turn themselves into yummy protein for chickens or fish!  It’s a relatively new technology that’s primarily used to recover the resources from food and market waste in low- and middle-income countries, but can also be used on human waste, which is what SOIL is interested in. 

What’s next?

SOIL’s research team is currently working on cultivating a starter colony of black soldier flies to re-start our small-scale trials. Once we have an established colony, we will begin testing best conditions for material conversion, larvae harvesting methods and pathogen inactivation. We are excited about the potential opportunities this type of technology could bring to SOIL’s sanitation solution. Incorporating black soldier fly larvae production into our waste valorization strategy will help to improve cost efficiencies as well as increase food security and livelihood opportunities for small scale farmers in the region. We look forward to sharing updates! 

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