Fly factory wins prize for turning waste into feed


A fly factory that transforms blood, guts, manure and discarded food into animal feed has won a $100,000 U.N.-backed innovation prize.

“We’ve created the first industrial farming operation for flies,” said Jason Drew of AgriProtein Technologies, which devised the concept. The initiative is based in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The flies, which are fed human-grade food, lay eggs that are collected and added to the waste, where they hatch into larvae. The larvae munch through the waste and are then harvested, dried and ground up and sent to a feed manufacturer.

“Our factory looks like a very big cage full of flies,” Drew said. “We take their eggs out, we put the eggs onto that waste, and at the end of 72 hours, 1 kilo of eggs turns into about 380 kilos of larvae.”

The dried larvae have the same composition as fish meal, commonly used in feeds and drawn from the sea.

The initiative signals a way to use discarded waste while finding a new source of protein.

“We take food from food factories, we take blood and guts from slaughterhouses, we take animal poo from concentrated farming operations, and we use different species of fly to eat and combine those wastes,” said Drew. “It’s what nature invented the fly for — to recycle that protein.”

Drew said the firm had spent the past five to six years working out how to get billions of egg-laying flies and larvae to work together.

The factory won the Innovation Prize for Africa, a joint initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Innovation Foundation.

A smaller unit has been developed for rural areas where small-scale animal owners can recycle their waste.

The firm has had interest from nearly 30 countries wanting to license the technology, said Drew.

“We take it for granted that we should recycle our tin, our plastic and our paper,” said Drew. “Within 10 years from now, we will consider it normal to recycle our waste nutrients.”