Managing Food Waste with Bugs
On the UC Davis campus, a group of researchers is breeding lots of bugs. I mean, a lot.
“At any given time, we could have a million flies,” said Trevor Fowles, a graduate student in the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The university researchers are exploring how to use black soldier fly larvae to break down organic waste—like almonds, wine waste, and tomatoes—and convert it into useful products.
“Fats from the soldier fly can be converted into machine lubricant and oils that you can put into animal feeds,” Fowles said. “Their frass (powdery white refuse) is rich in nutrients and can be added to composting operations.”
With SB 1383 requiring 50 percent reduction in the level of organice waste by next year and a 75 percent reduction by 2025, these little flies might end up playing a key role in greenhouse gas reduction.
“We need to keep these foods out of the landfills and reduce our carbon footprint,” Fowles said. “The black soldier flies are just one way we can eliminate this type of waste.”
In July, Fowles and a group of partners started their own business called Biomilitus, hoping to take the black soldier fly concept to businesses throughout the state.
“It (fly larvae) would be interesting to commodities groups who are trying to deal with their waste and trying to make an eco-friendly product,” Fowles said. “So, the almond board and tomato growers, they would be more interested if we had an insect that’s specifically bred to handle their waste products.”
See the video below for a closer look at these bugs doing what they do.