Talash Huijbers, farmer and CEO of InsectiPro, next to cages containing black soldier flies at her farm in Red Hill, Kiambu County, Kenya, on September 11 2020. Picture: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER
Talash Huijbers, farmer and CEO of InsectiPro, next to cages containing black soldier flies at her farm in Red Hill, Kiambu County, Kenya, on September 11 2020. Picture: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER

Limuru — Rotten bananas? Mushy avocados? Pulped oranges? Talash Huijbers wants them all.

The founder of InsectiPro, a Kenyan farm rearing black soldier fly larvae for animal feed. In the 10 days it takes for them to grow, the larvae need to be fed too — and fruit waste from factories and food markets in the capital Nairobi is just the thing.

“We take all the green waste in Nairobi and we turn it into something of high value — animal protein,” said Huijbers at the farm in Limuru, 28km from Nairobi. “From waste to gold.”

Every day, the farm processes about 20 to 30 tonnes of fruit waste and produces two to 2.5 tonnes of larvae, which is dried and turned into animal feed. Any remaining waste is used as manure, some of it on the farm, and the rest is sold to farmers in neighbouring farms.

The firm is the biggest in a wave of investment into larvae farming, seen as a lucrative and environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic waste and generate animal feed as concern rises over environmental pollution and sustainable eating.

“The end product of the waste goes to produce crops. Then the larvae that you get goes in to feed our livestock,” said Chrysantus Mbi Tanga, a research scientist at the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.

The institute has trained 2,000 black soldier fly farmers in Kenya in the past year and a half, but almost all are small operations. InsectiPro, which began with an investment of $850,000 two years ago, is the biggest. It will see its first profit before the end of the year, Huijbers said.

The company says it can’t keep up with orders and hopes to double or triple production by the end of the year when it gets a bigger dryer.

Now InsectiPro is researching the production of chitin, a byproduct of the black soldier fly’s pupa as it turns into an adult and a major constituent in the exoskeleton of arthropods. The pharmaceutical industry uses it in compounds for dressing wounds.

“The antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, when you put them in wounds, help eliminate the bacteria causing decay,” Tanga said.

Reuters

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