Glen Courtwright, CEO and founder of Enviroflight, says that Black Soldier Fly larvae have a nutty flavor, kind of like a savory cracker. But he’s not suggesting that we eat his product. He’s actually raising them as feed for livestock like pigs, cows and fish. His bug meal is very nutritious, and it costs about 20% less than grain.
The black soldier flies, live, mate and produce their eggs in a large greenhouse-looking building with Barry White tunes piped in 24 hours a day. (No really! Courtwright says that Barry White is a good replacement for the expensive vibrating equipment they would otherwise need to use in their process.) The flies are fed waste products from breweries and ethanol production and they produce a few million eggs per day, or 2,000 tons of animal feed.
You can see the flies in action in this video from CNN’s Erin Burnett.
But food for livestock isn’t the only benefit provided by this process. The “excretions” from the larvae, along with their shed skins are ground up into a fertilizer called “Yellow Springs Select All-Natural Plant Food.” According to Courtwright the result is a fibrous material that helps keep moisture in the ground with a slower releasing nitrogen that doesn’t burn plants. (For those keeping track it has an N-P-K ratio of 5-3-2.)
With the world’s population expected to increase significantly over the next 40 years, Courtwright Environflight’s work as one way to meet the 60% increase in food production we’ll need. Enviroflight’s mission is to develop sustainable animal and plant nutrients using regionally available, low-value materials emphasizing:
- Production of nutrients in a socially responsible way
- Elimination of toxins, hormones, and antibiotics from our food supply
- Reduction of the environmental and financial costs to our food supply
Now in its fourth year, the company is testing feed formulations for yellow perch, rainbow trout, and tilapia, all fish that can be farm raised. Once they’ve fixed on the exact formula, they hope to expand, building proprietary facilities at farm sites for customers.
Courtright is also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get permission to sell livestock feed made from insects. The hold up is related to mad cow disease. Since cows eating feed made from other cattle seemed to be spreading the disease, feeds made from animals were banned – and insects are considered to be “animals” for the purposes of feeding.
So – if Courtright and Enviroflight get the go ahead from the FDA, bugs could be in your livestock’s future. What would you think of raising 225 pounds of clean, safe, feed in a 3-foot by 5-foot space? Maybe someday we’ll be wondering again how to describe how we raise our livestock….pasture raised and bug-finished anyone?
To experience the Enviroflight “Love Shack” listen to this from Barry White: