Black Soldier Flies: A Versatile Organic Waste Recycling Army

Organic waste recycling can be more complicated than simply composting. From contaminants to composition, there are multiple factors that affect the type of outlet you can use to recycle organic waste, and which outlets will be most cost effective. Black Soldier Fly (BSF) Farms are one type of outlet that can handle more complex organic waste streams. Here are some interesting facts about using Black Solider Flies to recycle organic waste.

1. Black Soldier Flies turn waste into marketable protein commodities.

When organic waste goes to a BSF farm, it is eaten by the fly larvae. After only a few days, the larvae mature to pre pupa and pupa stages, when they can be harvested. These insects are very nutrient rich, containing about 5% calcium and 42% protein by weight. This high protein composition means that about 1 gram of these insects can yield 2.4 Kilograms of protein after only  18 days. That’s enough protein to feed over 40 adult humans (using an average recommendation of 56 grams per day). These high percentages of calcium and protein also are what make Soldier Flies ideal ingredients for fish, poultry, and pig feed markets. Currently, some state and federal regulations limit acceptable uses for such insect based protein ingredients. However, there could be larger feed related market opportunities on the horizon for these insects.

2. BSFs can process large volumes.

Their large appetites, short life cycle, and high reproduction rate make Soldier Flies ideal for handling large amounts of food waste. One female fly alone can lay anywhere from 400 to 900 eggs, and it only takes 12 days for those eggs to hatch and grow to adulthood. Also, since 1 square meter worth of Soldier Fly larvae can eat about 15 Kilograms of waste per day, a BSF farm would only need about 180 square feet of flies to process 1 ton of organic waste per day.

3. BSFs handle almost any kind of organic waste.

Unlike many organics outlets which require animal byproducts to be processed separately from plant based food waste, Black Soldier Flies eat almost any type of organic waste. This includes things like meat, fat, dairy, and most other food and beverage wastes. However, these flies do show a preference for calorie rich foods, and are unable to process high cellulose materials (like grasses, cardboard, or paper based products). Fortunately, BSF farms do typically accept paper based products like this as part of an organics stream; the material would just be considered an acceptable contaminant.

4. BSFs can process contaminated material.

Another key benefit to using Black Soldier Fly farms is that they usually accept contaminated waste steams. For instance, if a food or beverage manufacturer had pieces of metal or plastic that contaminated a load of products, that waste material could potentially be sent to a fly farm. Or if a company realized an entire load of food products had been packaged but was off spec, this packaged organic waste could potentially go to a BSF farm.

The reason these fly farms can process contaminated waste is due to the unique life cycle of the Soldier Fly. Soldier Flies actually only eat during the first 4 or so days of their life. This is when they are in the larvae stage. After this stage, Soldier flies begin to pupate, during which time their mouths turn into appendages used for climbing, and the flies climb away from food sources, seeking instead dry, sheltered places. This migration away from the food waste causes a natural harvesting process, which fly farmers can use to easily separate the fly pupas from the waste materials. These pupas are then what farmers harvest to produce the protein rich animal feed ingredients. Since the pupas cannot yet fly away, it is easy for farmers to separate some for harvesting and some to mature for breeding. Overall this makes for a very efficient and sustainable process for removing contaminates from organic waste.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about this recycling outlet for organic waste materials. Contact us today to learn what other unique recycling solutions Northstar could provide your company.

***Feature Image Credit/Copyright Attribution: “InsectWorld/Shutterstock”