Based on Google Scholar database the number of published papers that include the term “Black Soldier Fly larvae” has increased since 2015. A new record will be made by the end of 2020, as 449 papers are already published in the first 8 months (Figure 1).
What is Black Soldier Fly larvae and what is it capable of?
Hermetia illucens i.e. the black soldier fly, is a common and globally widespread fly.The adults of Hermetia illucens measure approximitely 16 millimetres long.Back Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae are used to compost waste or convert the waste into animal feed. It’s a bio-converter. Fly larvae are among the most efficient animals at converting feed into biomass. One larvae is able to eat about 130 mg food waste daily. Unfortunately the life of greedy larvae is short, perhaps 2 weeks hence the BSF farming requires constant upkeep. The other reason to farm BSF larvae is that the fat larvae is an excellent source of protein both for humans and animals.
Black Soldier Fly larvae and RDI actions
There is no lack of wicked problems: the need for economic opportunity, growth and development in rural areas; the problem of disposing of millions of tons of food waste generated in both rural and urban settings each year; a risk for hunger pandemic, a need for high-quality protein products both for food and feed.
The problems are so big that there is no chance to leave any stone unturned. Researchers world wide have since 1999 researched, tested and experimented how to farm BSFs and larvae of BSFs. The researchers have tested BSF larvae’s ability and limitations to be an efficient bio-converter. They have studied the business models of bio-conversion and also BSFs’ usage as a protein source. Technical upscaling from laboratory scale to industry scale business has been simulated and prepared.
The investments in the last decade on research, development and innovations actions have opened avenues to eager entrepreneurs, particularly in rural settings, to establish BSF larvae based production and business that relies on evidence and research results. In addition to scientific papers the diverse research actions have hopefully also advanced networking, co-operation, knowledge transfer and cross-sectorial understanding of Insect Economy.
Black Soldier Fly larvae and the wider concept of Insect Economy may provide a case to analyse policy makers’ influence on past RDI actions:
- How weak signals have been noted in?
- How RDI funding has been addressed to?
- How entrepreneurs have been supported?
- How food/feed legislation and regulation has adapted into the domain?
- How policy makers and governance have participated in networking, ecosystem building and cooperation?
From science to practice and viable business
There is still a lot of work to do to direct BSF larvae farming and Insect Economy into serious new business to benefit rural areas and to create new jobs. The main limitation to make business of BSF seems to be the markets. The protein products for food or feed still need customer acceptance and routes to markets. In addition, the larvae ability to process waste e.g. mixed food waste or manure is unexploited in the industrial scale. The waste handling processes (e.g. biomass collecting), the business models and production technology are not ready for that.
In order to enhance further developments in Insect Economy, the policy decisions that direct practise-oriented RDI actions, are based on evidence and are timely, give a push to new rural entrepreneurship (Figure 3).
Blue Wings Composting experiment
Blue Wings Composting experiment kick-off has taken place in August 2020. Smart & Lean Hub Oy manages the experiment that aims to recycle low-grade food bio-waste by using 10 000 Black Soldier Fly larvae. The experiment and its extensions (e.g. Sciences Cafes and visits) are carried out with Länsiharju school class 10-year old children, Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT), Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) and Päijät-Häme STEM-center.
Blue Wings Composting experiment is part of the environmental project – Lahti – European Green Capital 2021 which aims to create innovation and improvement in environmental issues, such as recycling, energy production and awareness.
In co-operation with Lappeenranta – Lahti University of Technology (LUT) SIRKKA project – New business from sustainable insect based protein production