Yes, you read that correctly. There are soldiers who can potentially tackle climate change. They may have a hard time fighting it off on their own, but there is hope. If you're imagining a special galactic force, then you are way off. These soldiers aren't from outer space, nor are they from Area 51 or some other underground U.S bases. As a matter of fact, these soldiers aren't even humans. So who are they?
Black Soldier Fly, better known in the scientific realm as Hermetia illucens, is a special kind of insect that can potentially solve multiple waste problems faced by modern-day cities. It is a member of the Stratiomydae family and it belongs to the Diptera order. Normally we associate flies with pests. But in the case of BSF (Black Soldier Fly), it does the complete polar opposite compared to its cousins.
The future of waste management: Black Soldier Fly
The Black Soldier Fly has a closed lifespan. The 'fly' stage of the cycle isn't that vital. However, you can get your money's worth from the larvae. BSF larvae can break down different organic constituents. This means the BSF larvae can digest any sort of organic waste before turning into a fly and completing the cycle.
During the 14 day larvae period, it can consume approximately 5,000 times its own body weight and start looking like a macaroni. The BSF larvae break down bacteria in the organic waste and while doing so it emits a certain odor that protects it from pests.
According to various researches, the larvae are a much better poultry and fish feed than the locally available ones. Researchers Diener, Zurbrügg, and Tockner identified in their scientific paper how beneficial the larvae can be as poultry feed compared to the existing feeds available globally (Diener et al., 2009). To add to the list of benefits, farming Black Soldier Flies has never been easier and cheaper. It can also be used as dry biomass if it is produced in a great quantity.
Black Soldier Fly farming has become very popular in Africa and it is starting to gain traction in different parts of Asia. The European and American market has seen industrial-scale production and processing of the BSF. In recent years China has started exporting these insects to different parts of the world. It has a proven track record of being profitable if farmed according to its merits while tackling issues of waste management and climate change.
The use of BSF larvae as poultry feed is not something out of the blue for some locals in Bangladesh.
Ariful Hasan, a resident of Mirpur, has been involved in rooftop farming for over 30 years now. He started using the BSF larvae as poultry feed for his chickens after he found out about the benefits.
When asked about the BSF farming he said, "The BSF larvae is an amazing food for my chicken as it contains a high nutritional value. I feed my kitchen waste to the larvae and after 2-3 weeks they turn into food for the chickens."
The scalability of such insect farming in Bangladesh is still in doubt. But Mr. Hasan believes even though it's a niche market, if we can replicate what China is doing in terms of exporting Black Soldier Fly eggs this industry has huge potential in Bangladesh.
One solution for multiple problems
In the grand scheme of things, the impact of BSF larvae might seem insignificant. But if you pay close attention to the details and the numbers you would be very surprised. In Bangladesh, most factories produce animal feed by recycling tannery waste. Research conducted by Abul Hossain, a professor in the Chemistry Department of the University of Dhaka, highlighted chickens that ate the tannery scrap recycled feed had 0.35 milligrams to 4.52 milligrams of chromium in different parts of their body.
Another governmental study conducted by Patuakhali Science and Technology University and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) found multiple harmful antibiotics in 50 % of the poultry samples.
Just to put things into perspective, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an individual weighing 60kg can tolerate a maximum of 0.25 milligrams of chromium each day. The amount of chromium permissible according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 0.05 milligrams per KG. It's evident that the commercial poultry feed of our country has an exceeding amount of harmful elements compared to the standards set by WHO and EFSA.
Chicken, being the cheapest form of animal protein in Bangladesh, a transformation in the animal and poultry feed sector has been long due.
One such initiative has been taken by Khalilur Rahman, in Sylhet's Bishwanath. He started farming Black Soldier Fly after returning from London with 150 BSF insects. Khalilur has already set up a chicken and quail farm next to his house. He uses the larvae as feed for his poultry. His initiative, 'Haji Biocycle Company' is almost on the verge of reaching self-sufficiency. According to his estimation, the BSF feed can be sold for around 35,000-40,000 taka per kilogram.
The Black Soldier Fly can revolutionise the waste management system in developing countries where multi-million dollar projects have failed previously because of obvious reasons. Any local farmer can start farming BSF, irrespective of the farm size.
They are environment-friendly and you won't have to worry about the disease spreading or any other harmful impacts. On top of that, the use of BSF larvae as a substitute for commercial poultry and fish feed can mitigate the health risk of billions. Black Soldier Flies genuinely have the potential to change Bangladesh while mitigating multiple aspects of climate change.