How does a production facility for the soldier fly work?
The black soldier fly (BSF), Hermetia illucens, is a tropical fly used for bioconversion of biological wastes and byproducts into high-value, marketable products. Recent decades have seen the engineering of the fly's natural life cycle into commercial facilities.
These plants can range from basic, fully manual facilities for small farmers that process a few hundred tons of feedstock per year to fully automated, climate-controlled 50,000 m2 facilities that process 70,000 tons of feedstock per year.
In particular, larger facilities must be designed and built following a rigorous engineering process based on the available raw material, product type, and market.
In recent years, many technology, and service providers have entered the market that can support this activity. In 2022, 121 BSF companies were mapped worldwide.
Business models are based on small-scale breeding, production of high-quality ingredients for companion and livestock markets (e.g., poultry, pigs, aquaculture), waste management, genetics, and sale of young larvae or production of higher value products.
Currently, pet and farm animal markets are the largest buyers of larval products, which are used live, frozen, dried, as protein meal, or as fat in the diets of domestic and farm animals. Recently, more valuable chitin, fat and melanin products are also being investigated for use in technical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic markets.
Today, BSF soldier fly breeding plants are mainly created for the disposal of agri-food by-products, as they provide high larval rearing performance, a reliable product and meet the highest legal standards.
BSF systems accelerate and control the natural life cycle of the fly to process waste and produce marketable products.
A BSF system can be divided into six different units:
1) raw material preparation
2) dosing/loading and rearing (young larvae until harvest),
3) rearing with nursery, the stage covered by the automated process by Kinsect,
4) harvesting of products, larvae and frass post-processing
5) storage and output logistics
6) auxiliary processes
Typically, all units are enclosed in one or more buildings. In temperate climates, this is usually a fully enclosed building with air-conditioned sections equipped with an HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system.
Of the 6 stages listed, the nursery stage is the most complex and is a key factor in the productivity of the facility. In this stage, flies mate and larvae are produced, which are then fattened or fed back into the cycle.
The reliability of waste treatment or protein meal production requires a constant supply of young larvae (typically 5DOL).
These young insects are provided by the rearing unit and the nursery. In the nursery unit, the larval offspring are typically fed homogeneous and nutritious feeds (e.g., chicken feed, okara mix, wheat, maize, rice bran, palm kernel meal, spent brewer's grains) until the prepupal stage.
Today, pupation is generally achieved by manual processes in one of the following ways:
- In a separate dark cage
- Directly in the fly cage
Fly cages come in different sizes and shapes and can be purchased or manufactured, since there is no market standard.
In the cage, under natural light conditions or specific spectrums of artificial light as in the case of kinsect technology, BSFs mate and female BSFs lay eggs on dedicated objects (also called eggies) that can be easily collected by operators, or by a robotic arm if the facility has suitable binders and a sufficient level of automation as in the case of the system proposed by kinsect.
BSFs find these eggs because they are placed near an attractant that attracts female BSFs to lay eggs nearby. This liquid attractant usually consists of a mixture of different odorous/decadent materials, such as fermenting fruit, dead flies, or ash.
The collected eggs are usually placed in a climate-controlled room or separate incubator. Within two to four days, newly hatched larvae (also called neonates) emerge. The eggs are often placed on top of a homogeneous, highly nutritious food. In this way, the young larvae fall directly into a moist food and are counted
With the promise of producing sustainable feed and even protein for human use, insect farming is a rapidly expanding industry.
By 2030, the insect protein market is expected to be worth $7.96 billion, with an expansion rate of 27.8 percent per year. To achieve this expansion, the industry needs to figure out how to increase the volume of insect protein produced. The following are some suggestions for increasing insect protein production:
Many successful insect protein producers place great emphasis on sustainability and environmental protection. For example, black soldier fly larvae are used to turn organic waste into high-quality protein while reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.