Black Soldier Fly Larvae- Composter Extraordinaire: Part 1- A More Delicate Topic
I will be returning from China tomorrow (more than 24 hours when including layovers); so, this is my last post until next week. The topic, as you can see from the title, is with regards to waste conversion. I figured I would start with a more delicate topic prior to delving into the more common aspects of waste conversion, such as vegetable waste or animal waste.
BSF larvae are able to digest a variety of resources ranging from meat and other assorted tissues to decomposing plant material. This is not a recent discovery, but something that has been known for quite a while- and a reason why there is so much interest in using the BSF to recycle wastes. I thought I would take us on a journey through the various publications exploring the use of the BSF to digest these differing wastes. And why not start out with something you don’t hear much about…. enjoy. J
Digestion of Human Waste
There are a couple of research papers that have explored this area of application- but for the blog post, I am going to focus on one. Not because it is the best (no offense, Ian, as it is an extraordinary paper; same to Stefan- great work out of Switzerland, or the initial papers in the early 20th century, I just don’t have your paper handy- explanation to follow), but because I am in China with limited access to my files. Maybe once I return to the states next week, I can mention a few others on this topic?
Banks, I. J., W. T. Gibson, and M. M. Cameron. 2014. Growth rates of black soldier fly larvae fed on fresh human faeces and their implication for improving sanitation. Tropical Medicine and International Health 19: 14-22.
Overview: An excellent study examining a most unique waste- human excrement. My colleague and friend Dr. Ian Banks conducted this study while he was a PhD student in the UK (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). As we all know, developed nations might think this concept to be rather crude in terms of technique. Why use an insect to recycle human waste- especially when we have chemically derived methods available? Well, while this might be true, I think it important we take a minute and pause to consider the potential of its use. Current methods recycle human waste in a very limited capacity- simply to dispose of the waste without contaminating the environment. What if, in developing nations, such waste could be recycled to produce protein, while still protecting the environment?
Synopsis: In this study, two different feed rates (single feed versus continuous) to larvae at two densities were examined. The major take home messages for me were, 1) BSF can convert human waste, 2) feed rate and larval density are important in terms of conversion of waste to protein, and 3) conversion rates of human waste were at approximately 22%- this level is significantly greater than for many other waste streams, which average around 10%.
Conclusion: Do not rule out the use of insects as a means for managing human waste. In a world where protein production is being challenged more and more every day due to continued growth of human population, increased quality of living (i.e., diets contain higher protein), and limited resources (e.g., land & water), all options for increasing quality resources, such as protein, need to be seriously considered.
Hunger in the World and Why BSF Would Be Useful in Developing Nations: A "soap box" for myself; I hope not to rub anyone the wrong way- but maybe with the crowd reading this blog, I’m not really preaching too much. I truly believe the BSF can be used to solve many issues in developed and non-developed nations. If we can educate our general public, media, and legislatures about the potential of this amazing insect- then just maybe we can really make a positive impact on the world.
Side Note- I want to make sure I keep on a predictable schedule with the blog. So my plan is to post two to three times per week (just as a FYI). This way, I have time to read papers and select topics that might be of interest to the BSF community. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions… they are always welcome.
And as a favor to me- please like (Facebook) or Tweet the blog when you read the post- let's spread the word about the BSF!
Until next time- best of luck and happy BSF farming!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF enthusiast
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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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