How one South African entrepreneur hopes to make millions from maggots
South Africa’s maggot farming startup, AgriProtein, has generated massive interest, at home and abroad. Now, illustrious TIME magazine has published a lengthy feature update on the business and its fantastic eco potential and profit.
Self-described Eco-Capitalist Jason Drew of AgriProtein is farming flies to feed the world, clean up waste, and make a mint in the process, reports TIME magazine.
When Jason Drew (left) plunges his hand into a seething mass of three-day old maggots, it is with the contentment of a farmer inspecting his thriving flock. His latest venture, AgriProtein, based in a sprawling, newly built factory farm on the edge of Cape Town’s international airport, is already showing signs of exponential growth.
In just a few weeks, when the last of the cages have been installed, the feeding machines put in place and the processing equipment up and running, he expects to have 8.5-billion head of Hermetia Illucens on site on any given day. Translated into English, and dollars, that would be about 22 tons of Black Soldier Fly larvae a day, worth some ten thousand dollars once they are processed, pressed and dried into granules destined for chicken farms and aquaculture plants.
But Drew isn’t just doing it for the money. He believes that flies will save the world. He is not alone.
By 2050, the world’s population will increase by two billion people. Demand for animal protein to feed that nine billion will increase even more quickly, as rising incomes from India to Africa mean a greater demand for beef, pork, fish and chicken. The FAO of the UN calls that the “animal protein crunch.” Drew calls it an investment opportunity.
The industrial farming of meat is an inefficient process that requires protein, often in the form of small fish harvested from increasingly depleted seas. It takes a minimum of 1.5 kilograms of fishmeal make one kilogram of farmed chicken meat, a scandalous plundering of the ocean’s limited resources that threatens the entire marine ecosystem.
“We are fishing out the ocean to feed our pigs,” says Paul Vantomme of the FAO. “That not a wise long term solution.”
Or, as Drew puts it, “if chickens were meant to eat fish, we would call them seagulls.” What chickens do eat, he says, is bugs and larvae. So why not feed them what they are meant to eat?
Seven years ago Drew came up with the deceptively simple idea of farming flies to supply a fishmeal alternative to chicken and fish farms. He was inspired, in part, by the sight of a vast pool of blood collecting behind an abattoir near his family farm. It was swarming with flies. Flies are nature’s housecleaners, feasting on organic waste that would otherwise become a breeding ground for disease.
With the support of his brother and the help of an entomologist at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University who was working on the idea of fly-driven “bio-recycling,” he developed a program that would take food waste from Cape Town’s hotels, grocery stores, restaurants and abattoirs to feed and breed flies.
He sold his family farm in South Africa’s lush wine country to invest $2.6 million in research and development. Once his idea started gaining traction (a 2011 TEDx talk helped), he attracted another $11 million in investment, enough to build his new factory farm — he expects to be cash flow positive within five months — and launch a global expansion. New branches are in the works in North America, Latin America and Europe as well.
He estimates that there is a market for some 2,500 fly farming factories of his size around the world. Food experts agree. “From a practical point of view, farming insects appears to be one of the most interesting protein alternatives for getting food on the table of a growing global population,” says Vantomme of the FAO. “It is economically viable. The only thing missing is scale.” Vantomme says global need for animal protein — fishmeal or its alternatives — is in the “millions of tons per year.”…..
TIME: Read the full article
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