Black Soldier Fly: Insects to Save the World
Did you know the world’s population is increasing? This is something I’d always heard but not until starting this project did I fully understand the ramifications. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by 30% to more than 9.7 billion inhabitants. This increase means there will be more demand for food to keep the world properly nourished.
No problem, right? We can just grow more corn, raise more chickens, catch more fish . . . if only it were that easy!
Today, over 815 million people are malnourished or food insecure, yet in three decades the world will demand 60% more food than we currently produce. If we can’t feed everyone today, how will we possibly feed even more tomorrow?
Waste not, want not
For decades it was assumed that our oceans contained an endless supply of marine life. As technology has advanced, however; we have become extremely efficient at harvesting fish from all corners of the world.
According to WorldWildLife.org, more than 30% of the worlds fisheries have been over-fished and are in need of strict management to restore them. If we can’t rely on the ocean to support population growth, where do we turn?
What if I told you the answer may be in the food that we already produce?
The United States alone produces 450 billion pounds of food every year. Of that, approximately 133 billion pounds go uneaten. This waste is often disposed in landfills where it decomposes and produces greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane).
National Geographic ran an article recently that studied the disposal of food waste from around the world. Their conclusion: if food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses behind China and the US.
So, what can we do about it?
Feed it to the flies
Currently, less than 3% of food waste is recovered or recycled. This is true mainly because, to date, there is no economical way to recover these nutrients. One promising solution may be the black soldier fly and its ability to efficiently convert organic waste into sustainable sources of nutrients for pet, aquaculture, and agricultural feeds.
BSF larvae convert roughly 20% of organic food waste into larval mass. Once grown, the larvae are harvested and made into a variety of valuable products. We will talk more about these in future blog posts, but the main focus of the insect production industry is the “meal” made from black soldier fly larvae.
The hope is this insect meal will supplement and relieve stress on the fish meal market. Currently, a large portion of the fish caught from the oceans is processed and made into a fish meal. Fish meal is an inexpensive source of protein often incorporated into agricultural feeds and then fed to hogs, chickens, and farmed fish.
Today’s generation is writing checks that tomorrows oceans can’t cash, and we need to be working on alternatives. How great would it be if we could use a waste stream that is an environmental liability to help relieve the stress on our oceans?
With the black soldier fly, we can!
Our joint black soldier fly venture recently earned LSU the APPA’s 2020 Sustainability Innovation Award.