Using Black Soldier Flies As a Tool for Rural and Community Development

Period of Performance: 05/14/2015 - 12/31/2015


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Portland, OR 97221
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Permetia Envirotech, Inc. research and development initiative is meant to help address four important problems. The first is the need for economic opportunity, growth and development in rural communities that has been well documented by USDA. The second is the problem of disposing of millions of tons of food waste and manure generated in both rural and urban settings each year - waste that often buried in landfills or composted, generating large amounts of greenhouse gasses in the process. Each year the United States throws away roughly 61 million tons of food. Of this amount, 21 million tons is composted or diverted to productive use, while nearly 40 million tons is buried in landfills at tremendous expense. The third problem is that of how to supply large amounts of additional high-quality animal protein to the world's population. Demand for food is expected to double by 2050. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that this will require producing an additional 233 million metric tonnes (MMT) of animal protein and 466 MMT of milk annually. The fourth is global climate change. According to The New York Times, about one-third of the food produced in the world is never consumed; a total of about 1.3 billion tons per year. Its decay creates 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs). If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of GHGs in the world, after China and the United States. This is because virtually all conventional methods of disposing of organic waste generate huge quantities of greenhouse gasses. Each ton disposed of in landfills produces 0.75 metric ton CO2 equivalent (MTCO2E), while each ton incinerated produces 0.68 MTCO2E. Composting is considered to be "greener", but still produces 0.55 MTCO2E, while 0.5% of the nitrogen present emits as nitrous oxide and 1.7% of the carbon present emits as methane.One means of alleviating all these problems simultaneously is to use abundant food and farm waste to grow commercial quantities of edible insects - particularly the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) (BSF) - a native, non-nuisance, beneficial species. BSF larvae efficiently convert organic waste into animal protein, oil and chitin, and organic fertilizer, all of which have industrial uses. In the process they actually sequester much of the carbon present in food waste as complex oils and proteins rather than releasing it into the air as methane or CO2. BSF have been successfully raised in limited commercial quantities both in the U.S. and internationally, and studies have shown that BSF larvae can be successfully used as an ingredient in both aquaculture and terrestrial animal feed. However challenges to the mass-scale production and utilization of BSF for the disposal of organic waste remain. Three problems in particular stand out: (1) reducing the physical "footprint" of BSF growth facilities; (2) reducing the amount of labor required for BSF culture through automation; and (3) creating end-products of sufficiently high value to make the process of bio-conversion financially viable.Permetia has developed a new, unique patent-pending BSF feeder bin that, if successful, could substantially increase the yield/m2 of BSF culture and production facilities and reduce both overhead and labor costs. This would substantially improve the economics and feasibility of converting food and/or manure waste to usable food and industrial commodities, while reducing the use of landfills and production of greenhouse gasses. The goal of this Phase I research is to obtain specific experimental data that will allow us to: (1) demonstrate the technical feasibility of the bin configuration proposed; (2) measure its efficiency and effectiveness as a means of promoting gas exchange within the food pile; (3) establish key operating parameters needed to move to the next (Phase II) step of learning how to build and manage a production system; and (4) test configurations that would allow f