Waste to Resources: SOIL’s Black Soldier Fly Research
Though SOIL’s work has undergone many iterations as we’ve carefully refined our model through the years, we have remained driven by our mission to transform waste that has such potential to do harm into resources that instead support social, economic, and environmental regeneration. As a part of this continued effort to increase the impact of SOIL’s affordable, safe, and dignified full-cycle sanitation services, a few of our team members have been working in collaboration with visiting researchers on an exciting new project at SOIL’s waste treatment site outside of Cap-Haïtien.
Inspired by other members of the Container-Based Sanitation Alliance (CBSA) like Sanergy who take different approaches to recovering resources from waste, SOIL has been piloting a new experiment testing how black soldier flies could transform waste from our EkoLakay sanitation service and serve as a new potential source of revenue to support the ongoing project costs.
Black soldier flies (BSF) are a special fly in that their larvae have the potential to transform organic waste into a protein-packed, valuable end product: chicken feed! 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 it’s also proving to be an effective tool for transforming human waste, which is what SOIL is interested in.
How does it work? During the lifespan of about 10-20 days, the BSF larvae feed on the waste. As they do so, they grow bigger and the quantity of waste reduces simultaneously. Before the larvae pupate and turn into flies, they are harvested and sanitized, leaving behind a protein-rich livestock feed. Currently, much of the feed for the chicken farms across northern Haiti is expensive and has to be imported from neighboring Dominican Republic. At scale, this circular economy waste-to-resource technology has the potential to have a significant impact not just by transforming waste, but also by supporting livelihood generation and local food production.
This summer our BSF research has been spearheaded by SOIL Research Associate Michèle Heeb in partnership with visiting researcher Dani Peguero. Their focus is on determining whether or not the conditions at SOIL’s waste treatment site in northern Haiti work well for BSF as well as the conditions that lead to improved larval growth.
If the tests are as successful as it is looking as though they may be, BSF technology is something SOIL may consider using in combination with composting. We don’t see it as an alternative to composting waste treatment (don’t worry compost fans – nobody loves compost more than SOIL!) but instead as an additional resource-recovery process for waste collected from SOIL’s urban sanitation service. As SOIL works to leverage innovative financial mechanisms to provide affordable sanitation access to as many people as we can in resource-poor communities – a challenge that has previously evaded the sector as a whole – the hope is that this technology could serve as a potential source of revenue to cover a part of the costs of providing these lifesaving services, like we do with the sales of SOIL’s organic compost, Konpòs Lakay.
We just finished the experiment this week and look forward to informing blog readers of the findings in the coming months. We hope you will also stay tuned for an introduction to the brilliant researchers behind this exciting work!
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