Maggots Are Making This Guy Millions! Yes, I Said Maggots...(Videos)
Categories: On The Farm
Self-described Eco-Capitalist Jason Drew of AgriProtein is farming flies to feed the world, clean up waste, and make a mint in the process.
When Jason Drew plunges his hand into a seething mass of 3-day old maggots, it is with the contentment of a farmer inspecting his thriving flock. His latest venture, AgriProtein, based in a sprawling, newly built factory farm on the edge of Cape Town’s international airport, is already showing signs of exponential growth.
In just a few weeks, when the last of the cages have been installed, the feeding machines put in place and the processing equipment up and running, he expects to have 8.5 billion head of Hermetia Illucens on site on any given day. Translated into English, and dollars, that would be about 22 tons of Black Soldier Fly larvae a day, worth some $10 000 once they are processed, pressed and dried into granules destined for chicken farms and aquaculture plants. But Drew isn’t just doing it for the money. He believes that flies will save the world. He is not alone.
By 2050, the world’s population will increase by 2 billion people. Demand for animal protein to feed that 9 billion will increase even more quickly, as rising incomes from India to Africa mean a greater demand for beef, pork, fish and chicken. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls that the “animal protein crunch.” Drew calls it an investment opportunity.
The industrial farming of meat is an inefficient process that requires protein, often in the form of small fish harvested from increasingly depleted seas. It takes a minimum of 1.5 kilograms of fishmeal make 1 kilogram of farmed chicken meat, a scandalous plundering of the ocean’s limited resources that threatens the entire marine ecosystem. “We are fishing out the ocean to feed our pigs,” says Paul Vantomme of the FAO. “That not a wise long term solution.”
Or, as Drew puts it, “if chickens were meant to eat fish, we would call them seagulls.” What chickens do eat, he says, is bugs and larvae. So why not feed them what they are meant to eat?
7 years ago Drew came up with the deceptively simple idea of farming flies to supply a fishmeal alternative to chicken and fish farms. He was inspired, in part, by the sight of a vast pool of blood collecting behind an abattoir near his family farm. It was swarming with flies. Flies are nature’s housecleaners, feasting on organic waste that would otherwise become a breeding ground for disease. With the support of his brother and the help of an entomologist at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University who was working on the idea of fly-driven “bio-recycling,” he developed a program that would take food waste from Cape Town’s hotels, grocery stores, restaurants and abattoirs to feed and breed flies.
How it works
Common flies are harvested with organic waste, such as food leftovers from supermarkets and restaurants and remains from slaughterhouses. The flies lay their eggs in the waste, and these eggs rapidly turn into larvae, eating the waste as they grow. The BBC calculated that one kilogram of eggs becomes 380 kilogrammes of larvae in just three days.
After a few days, before they become flies, the larvae are collected, washed, and pressurised into MagMeal, which can be delivered to chicken barns and fish farms.
Opening a new fly farm costs about £5.2 million ($8 million), but the investment would be amortised very quickly since the operational costs are low. AgriProtein already has an agreement with Cape Town’s waste disposal agency, helping them to sort out what to do with the garbage of a city of four million.