Raising better waste-munching flies

Scientists at James Cook University are studying how to breed better waste-munching flies so that the larvae can be used as a sustainable protein source for pets and agricultural and aquaculture animals.

Professor Kyall Zenger of JCU is the leader of a project in collaboration with Flyfarm Queensland to address the challenges facing the industrial scaling up of Australian Black Soldier Fly (BSF) agriculture.

He said the human population will reach around 9.7 billion by 2050, as will concerns over the sustainability of animal feed production and waste management.

“Conventional protein ingredients for animal feed will become increasingly unsustainable, as traditional protein ingredients such as soybean meal and fishmeal are even more limited. Some studies predict that these resources will peak within five years,” Professor Zenger said.

He said that to meet the growing demand, the mass rearing of insects for animal feed has attracted worldwide attention due to their high nutritional value and rapid biomass generation.

“The replacement of soybean and fishmeal protein components in animal feed with insect biomass (in this case, BSF larvae), produced from efficient bioconversion of organic waste (including consumption of animal waste), is a promising solution to the problem,” said Professor Zenger.

“If you look across horticulture, food and beverage manufacturing and retail, there is a giant opportunity to do better with waste – to reduce landfills and emissions and generate value by producing locally produced, sustainable protein for pet and aquaculture feed,” said FlyFarm Co-Founder Constant Tedder.

Professor Zenger said BSF larvae feed voraciously on organic matter of plant and animal origin and their remarkable efficiency in recycling nutrient-poor matter into high-yield proteins and fats has attracted much commercial interest.

“The potential future value of insect-derived inputs is estimated to be over $875 million per year in Australian raw materials, $90 million per year in Australian pet food and a significant contribution to recycling in Australia’s organic waste sector valued at $3.1 billion a year,” the professor said. Zenger.

But he said there is exciting potential to further improve the performance of this bioconversion method through research.

“In partnership with FlyFarm Queensland, our goal is to understand BSF genetics so that we can manage genetic resources on-farm and be able to predict genetic merit and understand feed effects. We are also developing near-infrared technology as a tool for rapid protein and fat phenotyping,” Prof. Zenger said.

The federal government’s Australian Research Council awarded the project a linkage grant of over $600,000.

“The ultimate goal is the long-term growth and competitive advantage of the Australian insect farming industry, as well as promoting the benefits of a circular economy through the bioconversion of organic waste into commercially produced products. viable,” Professor Zenger said.

“We are extremely excited and proud to be collaborating with Professor Zenger and his team at JCU. We see the potential for insect farming to become a major new high-tech agricultural industry in Australia,” Mr Tedder said.

The project will last three years.


In the last round of funding, the Australian Research Council approved more than $29 million for 61 grants for Linkage projects over the next five years. Projects will also receive an additional $59 million in cash and in-kind support from more than 200 partner organizations.

About Fly Farm

FlyFarm is a Queensland-based scale-up that partners with agribusinesses, food processors, food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and municipalities to build biorefineries to recycle their organic waste, to generate value and reduce emissions.

FlyFarm generates sustainable, traceable, Australian-grown insect protein for pet food and aquaculture feed.

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