Better waste breeding eats flies

Scientists at James Cook University are investigating ways to better breed waste-eating flies so that the larvae can be used as a sustainable source of protein for pets, agricultural and aquaculture animals.

JCU’s Professor Kyall Zenger is leading a project in collaboration with Flyfarm Queensland to address the challenges facing the industrial scale-up of Australian Black Soldier Fly (BSF) farming.

As the human population reaches an estimated 9.7 billion by 2050, concerns about the sustainability of animal feed production and waste management are growing, he said.

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

According to him, the mass cultivation of insects for animal feed to meet the growing demand has attracted worldwide attention due to their high nutritional value and rapid biomass production.

“Replacing soy and fishmeal protein components in animal feed with insect biomass (in this case, BSF larvae) obtained from efficient bioconversion of organic waste (including eating animal waste) is a promising solution,” said the professor. Zenger.

“If you look at horticulture, food and beverage production and retail, there is a huge opportunity to do better with waste – reduce landfill and emissions and create value by producing sustainable locally produced protein to feed pets and aquaculture,” said FlyFarm Co-Founder Constant Tedder.

Professor Zenger said BSF larvae are voracious feeders on both plant and animal organic matter, and their remarkable efficiency in converting scarce nutrients into high-yield protein and fat has attracted considerable commercial interest.

“The future potential value of insect-derived inputs is estimated to exceed $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,” the professor said. Zenger.

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

“Our aim in working with FlyFarm Queensland is to understand BSF genetics so that we can manage genetic resources on the farm, predict genetic merit and understand the effects of diet. We are also developing Near-Infra-Red technology as a means of rapid phenotyping of proteins and fats,” said Professor Zenger.

The Federal Government’s Australian Research Council has awarded the project a Linkage Grant of over $600,000.

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

“We are very excited and proud to collaborate 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 latest round of funding, the Australian Research Council has approved more than $29 million for 61 grants for Linkage Projects over the next five years. The projects will also receive an additional $59 million in cash and cash support from more than 200 partner organizations.

About FlyFarm

FlyFarm is expanding its Queensland-based scale, partnering with agribusinesses, food processors, food and beverage companies, retailers and municipalities to build biorefineries to recycle organic waste, create value and reduce emissions.

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

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