The EU-funded Climate Launchpad is the world’s largest ‘clean technology’ business idea competition, with a prize of €10 000 to the winner of the European final. The InvertaPro team entered the competition after raising their own funds to establish a facility for breeding and processing black soldier flies as a high-protein animal feed in Morogoro, Tanzania.
High protein animal feeds are mainly based on fishmeal at present. This has clear disadvantages including extreme overfishing, which has resulted in stock depletion to the extent that the market cost of fishmeal has gone from $US 400/tonne in 1995 to $US 1800 today, with a recent spike at $US 2400/tonne. The use of fish-based animal feed is thus ecologically destructive and unsustainable in both environmental and monetary terms.
The use of insects as an abundant, cheap food source for livestock has clear advantages that are hard to ignore. The black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, is common in Tanzania. Unlike many other fly species, it is neither a pest nor vector of disease in either larvae or adult phases; the insects efficiently break down organic substrates in the soil, and can be used to compost and sanitize waste. As an animal feed for livestock such as fish and chicken, the larvae are an excellent source of sustainable food, high in protein and amino acids. Whilst the insects are also edible for humans, there is no competition between humans and livestock for the food source, as is the case with fish-based animal feeds.
The InvertaPro team use waste products from local markets, hotels and abattoirs to feed the insects. The local environmental conditions (humidity and air temperature) in Morogoro are perfect for breeding the insects, allowing the team to take advantage of these conditions to process the insects using low-tech, low-cost approaches that are affordable and sustainable, both for local populations and further afield. Production of the flies is climate-positive: no electricity is used at the deliberately low-tech test facility and the insects are sun-dried.
InvertaPro’s current facilities include 25 pods for breeding the flies, insect processing equipment and a bio-digester will be installed to create energy (methane) from the waste products. Whilst the insect is extremely fast-growing and slow-moving and thus easy to manage, the team have encountered some challenges in fine-tuning their reproduction, and are in the process of optimising the breeding programme at their test facility in Morogoro.
“Getting the insects from egg to larvae has been tricky. We suspect this has something to do with the moisture content of the soil”, says Zabron Nziku.
The team see many wide-reaching opportunities in this project. As well as potentially providing employment to local communities, there are planned re-investments in training centres, social development projects and further research and development.
“The production plant we are planning to construct here in Morogoro, Tanzania will provide employment to local communities. With this large-scale production method we are developing, we are aiming at reaching a level of commercial, competitive production of insect-protein to address both domestic and international markets” [Source: InvertaPro.com]
Tanzania-Norway research relations can be strengthened with proposed collaborations between Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania and NMBU/NIBIO/Nofima in Norway. The possibility for future carbon credit sales is also under discussion.
Follow InvertaPro on their Facebook page.
Zabron Nziku is a PhD Fellow at the Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences at NMBU. Alexander Solstad Ringheim completed his Masters in International Environment Studies at Noragric in 2014 and was, until recently, employed by Noragric on the Peace Corps programme in Tanzania. Both Zabron and Alexander have been participants of the programme 'Enhancing Pro-poor Innovations in Natural Resources and Agricultural Value-chains' (EPINAV), a joint programme between Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania and NMBU. Lukas van der Horst completed his Masters in International Environment Studies at Noragric in 2015.