I had to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada for a meeting today and possibly tomorrow, which is why I suspected I would not have time to prepare another post for the BSF blog; however, I now find myself sitting in a café with a fair amount of time on my hands… and I thought what better way to use my time than to prepare this edition of the BLOG ON BLACK SOLDIER FLY (please hear echoing and trumpeting when reading that statement).
With all the interest in insects as food and feed, I wanted to continue to discuss the potential of the BSF as a feed, or treat, ingredient for livestock, poultry/reptile, and aquaculture. My last post was on aquaculture. So, given I started at the end of my list of potential feed users, I thought I would continue along the trend of working backwards by focusing on poultry/reptile. I’m anticipating this post would be of value to everyone interested in BSF as treats (and feed in some countries/regions, just not the USA or EU yet) since there are a number of companies selling their products (e.g., popworms.com for poultry or synonym.com for reptile) specifically for this purpose. Items to ask yourself, if you are one of these individuals interested in using BSF as a treat for your family pet chicken(s);
Where was the product produced? For the USA, most BSF product are produced outside in another country, imported, and then packaged in the USA. So, the background of the product is generally not known. This type of information could prove critical with regards to assessing quality and safety of the product.
What did they feed the BSF? Some producers are transparent and indicate their product was produced on a standardized feed or recycled food, while others do not know as the product was imported.
Is it safe? This question is critical as the safety aspect of the product could be called into question depending on what material was fed to the BSF larvae.
Nutritional Quality? Since some companies sell BSF raised on recycled food, their actual nutrition quality across batches of BSF will change depending on what was provided to the larvae when fed. So, in some instances, protein and fat can be high while with other batches, these numbers can vary.
Are there any additives? This question relates again to what was fed the larvae. Were antibiotics, GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops/vegetables used to produce the BSF larvae? Do the producers know?
These are a few items for you to consider with your BSF treats for poultry or reptiles. If you have more questions- let me know. I will do my best to answer them.
One thing to note- if you are producing BSF- regardless if they are for poultry/reptile treats, these are questions you should be asking yourself as well... and be ready to answer when asked.
Until next time- all the best and happy BSF farming!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF Producer
Hello Everyone- I hope this Monday finds you well and you are well rested after a great weekend. My weekend was very relaxing; fall is surely here. We had a cold front with the temperatures dropping to 33°C (believe me, this is a cold front for Texas).
I will be traveling this week so my blog posting might be a bit off schedule come the middle of the week. But I will do my best to make sure to have something interesting posted by Wednesday or Thursday.
On to the next topic.....
I am going to switch gears for the next few posts and focus on animal production when using BSF as a feed ingredient. But, before I do, I thought I would tackle a subject that is of great importance to the industry as well- if we can produce animals by feeding them BSF, does the flavor (based on consumer response) of the animal change? In fact, there is limited information on this topic- which means there is ample opportunity for additional research.
The one paper I am aware of (please let me know if there are others as I would love to read them and discuss them with you) is a paper published six years ago. The title is:
Sensory Analysis of Rainbow Trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, Fed Enriched Black Soldier Fly Prepupae, Hermetia illucens
Overview: This study was done as a follow-up to a previous study published by Sophie St. Hilaire (to be reviewed in a future blog) who is also an author on this particular paper. The major question was- if you feed fish BSF, will people consuming them find them palatable? This question is very important when you consider most countries in the world have approved BSF as a feed ingredient for the aquaculture industry (select species of course).
Synopsis: The researchers in this study used rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, as its model. The authors replace the fishmeal diet with 25% and 50% BSF or fish offal-enriched BSF prepupae. The fish were fed the diets for eight weeks prior to harvesting and use in the “taste test.” They also measured growth of the fish on these diets. They determined diet did impact growth rate. Those fed the fish offal-enriched BSF diet grew slower (16%), but not significantly, than those in the control; however, those fed strictly BSF replacement (25% replacement about 31% smaller; 50% replacement about 25% smaller) diet had significantly reduced growth rate. While the growth analysis was not the most positive, there results from the taste test were- basically 30 untrained people tried the fish produced from the three diets and determined no difference in flavor!
Details….details…details…..of the study, if you would like to know them J
This paper is has a nice component with regards to nutritional analysis of the resulting diets (including the BSF used in the study). These results are presented in Tables 1-4. Table 1 presented amino acid composition of the BSF diets. Table 3 provides a more gross description of the diets used in the study. Components include fishmeal, corn gluten meal, and much more. In table 2 and 4, you will notice that there are some differences in fatty acid composition across the diets. Such data are important when formulating industry grade diets as consistency in nutrient makeup is critical for consistent production in aquaculture. Furthermore, by knowing these data, nutritionists can formulate a diet resulting in optimal aquaculture production as well.
Other data related to feed conversion, feed consumption, muscle ratio, and more are presented in Table 5.
Conclusions: The basic conclusions from this study are the replacement of fishmeal with BSF or enriched BSF impacted growth of rainbow trout; however, such replacements did not impact flavor. The consumer had no problem with the flavor of the fish produced on a partial BSF diet. So what do these data mean?
As always, I hope this information is interesting and useful. My plan, as I mentioned earlier, will be to review other studies where BSF has been used as a feed replacement for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture. And please- if there are other topics you would like me to cover, let me know. Thanks to Cies and Paul for recommending topics. I promise, these will be covered soon.
Until next time- all the best and happy BSF farming!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF nutritionist?
Black Soldier Fly Larvae- Composter Extraordinaire: Part 4- Conversion of Food Waste and Potential Use of Residue as Fertilizer
Good news- a two for one post today! I hope you all have a great weekend. As a FYI, I am traveling next week, so my posts might be delayed a bit.
Here we go......
Several studies have examined the ability of the BSF to convert food waste to protein and fat. But, before I delve into these studies and their findings, I want to remind you all to really consider how you define the food waste you provide your larval BSF. Remember, the BSF, much like you, is impacted by the food they eat. For the BSF, too much protein and the larvae,
With regards to carbohydrates, if in plant form, the BSF does a pretty spectacular job handling the waste.
What is known about BSF reducing food waste?
There are a few studies on this topic- and it seems more and more are being done each year, which is great. The more we know, the more we can determine the dependability of the BSF to function in such a capacity.
The study I will review is the following by Trinh Nguyen when she was a MS student at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Canada.
Nguyen, T. T. X., J. K. Tomberlin, and S. Vanlaerhoven. 2015. Ability of black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae to recycle food waste. Environmental Entomology 44: 406-410.
Overview: This study examined the ability of the BSF to convert several food types. These included, poultry feed, liver, manure, kitchen waste, fruit & vegetables, & fish. The authors examined the life history traits of the BSF (larval weight, development time, nutritional value of the prepupae collected) as well as the nutritional value of the waste itself.
Synopsis: As expected waste type impacted BSF development. Larvae provided fish developed slow, while those provide fruits and vegetables grew fast. Furthermore, waste type impacted conversion rates of the BSF with manure having the lowest level of reduction. And, with regards to quality of BSF prepupae produced, nutritional value varied depending on what the larvae were fed.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates a point I have made in several previous blogs. What you feed your larvae impacts all parameters of your operation regardless if you are big or small. Keeping records of the materials you provide larvae in conjunction with production are critical for consistent output. As a sidenote, such records also allow you to troubleshoot when an issue comes up, such as larval die-off, delayed production, or small larvae produced (just a few examples).
I hope the review of this study proves useful. I encourage you all to read the papers and draw your own conclusions. If you have questions, post them on the blog or email me directly. I am here to help. J
Now- one more thing… once you have the system down and you are producing larvae….
What do you do with the remaining food waste after digestion?
One potential path is the development of the residue as a fertilizer. I had done some preliminary work a while back on this potential application, and I found that the material is still relatively “hot” and probably needs to be composted or diluted with other organize matter (i.e., leaves, straw, etc) to reduce the Nitrogen content. I suspect this is residue specific and that what I found was really just because of what I was working with at the time (dairy manure).
A study you might find interesting on this topic is:
Choi, Y., J. Choi, J. Kim, M. Kim, W. Kim, K. Park, S. Bae, and G. Jeong. 2009. Potential usage of food waste as a natural fertilizer after digestion by Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae). International Journal for Industrial Entomology 19: 171-174.
Overview: The authors reared BSF on food waste. With the residue, they initially conducted a chemical analysis and compared it with commercial fertilizer. They then used the residue as a fertilizer for cabbage.
Synopsis: The authors indicate the BSF residue is not different than the commercial fertilizer examined in this study (Table 1); however, if you look at the nitrogen amounts, it does appear the BSF residue has a significantly higher level than the commercial fertilizer. They determined there were no major differences in nutrient composition of cabbage grown with either the food waste residue produced by BSF as a fertilizer or the commercial fertilizer. Table 2 in the paper provides these data. They also conclude plant growth was comparable between treatments (cabbage with BSF residue and cabbage with commercial fertilizer).
Conclusion: Data from this study look promising. However, additional research is needed to see if results remain consistent across crops. Also, given the link between flies and pathogen movement, it would be good to determine if BSF residues pose such a risk.
Check out this paper on intestinal bacteria of BSF reared on food waste:
Jeon, H., S. Park, J. Choi, G. Jeong, S.-B. Lee, Y. Choi, and S.-J. Lee. 2011. The intestinal bacterial community in the food waste-reducing larvae of Hermetia illucens. Curr Microbiol 62: 1390-1399.
As always, I hope this information is useful to you. Until next time....best of luck and happy BSF farming!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF caregiver
The time has arrived for us to depart the topic of manure recycling with the BSF…. Oh how sweet the sorrow- or maybe not so much. In fact, I suspect in terms of a topic, manure digestion is not as appealing as recycling food waste. So I move onward… and upward!
Before I dive into the topic of BSF recycling of food waste- let me as you a question. What is food waste? I suspect the answers will vary depending on the individual. But, I feel confident in saying, I bet you all are correct, which illustrates a point I want to make. Food waste is a very qualified term that applies to many different forms of food. Clearly there are the traditional types of food waste:
And there are other forms….. such as:
Regardless of the form, a lot of it is produced. Numbers vary, but the estimate is around 30-40% of the food produced is wasted. Numbers in 2010 indicate around 133 billion pounds of food is wasted (see this website) which has a value of $390 per person.
Here is an interesting study (survey) on food waste produced last year (fall 2016); a similar study was produced in 2014 as well- definitely something worth reading:
Here are some highlights:
-BIGGEST BARRIER FOR FOOD WASTE RECYCLING- Insufficient recycling options
- 94% of diverted food waste was used as animal feed or land applications.
-60% of food waste applied to land
-35%+ of food waste used as animal feed
-6-12% of large and medium-sized manufacturers divert food waste to composting (low amounts)
So why not divert food waste recycling food- what are the barriers?
Areas of Investment for Recycling Food Waste:
-Food waste generation (reducing)
-Recycling (i.e., composting)
-Used as animal feed
Summary: These are some general tidbits of information for you to think about when having dinner at home or in a restaurant. Why produce so much waste? What do we do with it? Can we use the BSF to recycle it? The next post will contain a review of food waste and how the BSF functions as a recycler of such materials, associated benefits, as well as challenges.
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF & Food Waste Friend
Well first, I would like to say; I made it back from China to Texas. What a great trip. Always a blast catching up with colleagues and friends in China- especially those interested in the BSF. Tremendous advancements being made, and I look forward to our continued collaborations and sharing these efforts here.
So, as I said, I will be attempting to publish on the blog a couple of times per week- between Monday and Friday. I will use the weekends to recharge my batteries and think about topics for future posts. But as I have said, if you have ideas, please share with me. I have enjoyed my conversations on Facebook with many individuals around the world (special thanks to Paul Olivier for our conversations- definitely has led to a number of topics coming up that I will discuss in future blog posts).
The paper(s) to be discussed in this post are with regards to the use of BSF for recycling animal manure. For those not familiar with this issue, confined animal facilities (CAFOs) produce more manure than they know what to do with. Typically, this manure is applied as fertilizer on land surrounding the CAFO, and in many instances, crops produced are used as feed for the livestock (e.g., silage for dairy). However, there is only so much manure that can be applied to a given location before it becomes saturated. At that time, producers often have to truck the manure to other locations, which is an added expense if they do not have other options (e.g., composting, biogas production) available to them.
But, as you can expect, the BSF can be a unique method for recycling these wastes. In fact, previous research has shown the BSF does a great job recycling these materials. Sheppard pointed out with poultry, the BSF can recycle 50% dry matter (give or take) and produce larvae. The resulting residue could potentially be used as a fertilizer (although the material is still relatively “hot” due to high concentrations of nitrogen being present still).
The paper to be discussed today is:
Myers, H. M., J. K. Tomberlin, B. D. Lambert, and D. Kattes. 2008. Development of black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae fed dairy manure. Environmental Entomology 37: 11-15.
You can locate the referenced article at:
Overview: This study explored feed rate of dairy manure to the black soldier fly and its ability to recycle the waste to produce larval biomass. Four feed rates were applied in this study. This approach took a continuous feed approach rather than using a batch system (i.e., provide one lump some of manure and allow them to digest it). The idea again being, the BSF could be used to recycle dairy waste and convert it to protein. If you get a chance, check out this link to dairy waste. It provides you some idea of what CAFOs are dealing with in terms of sustainable approaches for handling manure on site.
Synopsis: This study demonstrated the BSF could be used to recycle waste and produce protein. Manure reduction could be up to 50% (including moisture loss) or more. Also, phosphorus and nitrogen were significantly reduced; however, from our observations (outside of this study), the residue is still fairly “hot” and would need to be diluted with other organic material or composted additionally in order to reduce the nitrogen content so the residue could then be applied to land. One other observation, feed rate (as discussed in previous blog posts) impacts duration of BSF development. Determining the appropriate feed rate (if not using batch system) is important to maximize larval production and waste reduction.
Conclusion: BSF can be used to recycle dairy manure. While many researchers and practitioners are interested in industrializing this insect for food waste remediation, efforts should be made to expand to sustainable waste management in CAFOs. Such an approach would, 1) reduce environmental burden of CAFOs, and 2) create new revenue streams for CAFOs, thus making them economically more stable.
As always- I hope this post is interesting and educational. Please Facebook like and tweet as a means to get the word out to others.
Until next time- all the best, good luck, and happy BSF farming!
Some other articles to consider are:
Great article on house fly production from manure:
Khan, H. A. A., S. A. Shad, and W. Akram. 2012. Effect of livestock manures on the fitness of house fly, Musca domestica L. (Diptera: Muscidae). Parasitology Research 111: 1165-1171.
Fecal sludge recycling:
Lalander, C., S. Diener, M. E. Magri, C. Zurbrügg, A. Lindström, and B. Vinnerås. 2013. Faecal sludge management with the larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) — From a hygiene aspect. Science of The Total Environment 458: 312-318.
Čičková, H., G. L. Newton, R. C. Lacy, and M. Kozanek. 2015. The use of fly larvae for organic waste treatment. Waste management 35.
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF Aficionado
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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