The children and the teacher of Länsiharju primary school grade 4B arrived at Pikkuvesijärvi lake at 9 am. By chance the day also was the UNICEF-walk day where students raise money by walking or running kilometers, so the class came to the lake by walking from the school. The day’s mission regarding the Blue Wings Composting project is to feed to the lake’s fauna the frozen black fly larva from the composting project.
The class had been feeding these larvae for 14 days and had been sad to let them go. The project introduces children to the cycle of nature and so at the end of it, larvae had to become food for other living beings. The children were divided into smaller groups and given containers of the frozen larvae which they then threw into the Lake for the ducks and fishes to eat.
The whole process went very smoothly and was over in a short while. The ducks seem to interest the children most.
After a successful finish to the project, the children continued their UNICEF-walk back to school.
Black Soldier Fly larvae – based bioconversion at Länsiharju school in Lahti was terminated according to the plan.
The bioconversion by larvae was in operation for 14 days. Larvae ate with good appetite mixed school kitchen waste food that was served to larvae once a day.
The bioconversion was managed by the teacher of Länsiharju school and 10-years old children of the class. The forthcoming bioscientists were courage and curious, and they handled and monitored larvae daily basis according to detailed guidance and data collection matrix (see pics below).
The bioconversion produced value tor four different end-user groups. The first end-user group was the teacher’s home chicken farm. As you can see on the video the chickens really enjoyed to eat fat larvae which are full of protein and oil. Healthy diet indeed – for chickens.
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
A distinguished group of scientists and business innovators will gather together in Lahti on 24.9.2020 to discuss and share findings and experiences about Insect Economy in theory and in practice. The main topics for our discussion are:
Insect and larvae based protein production
Larvae propelled bioconversion
Cross-sector interconnection in the bio-based economy
Entrepreneurship in rural areas
Children point of view and their relationship to nature
Science Cafe is one of the elements of Blue Wings Composting i.e. Toukkakompostori experiment that is carried out at Länsiharju school and supported by Lahti Green Capital project.
The event is organised together with SIRKKA project that is run by Lappeenranta Technical University (LUT). SIRKKA – kestävästä proteeiinituotannosta uutta liiketoimintaa.
Blue Wings Composting experiment explores also Insect Economy as potential domain to establish novel rural entrepreneurship. Horizon2020 PoliRural project is designed to advance rural policy development to increase rural attractiveness. One dimension of attractiveness is a possibility to work in rural area for example as an entrepreneur.
Considering the fact that our project would be conducted indoors and in limited space, we did not have that many options for storage systems. Luckily for us, IKEA happened to sell usable storage solutions, what we could use for our project.
For our project, we had to acquire three different types of storage boxes, one for larvae, compost and bio waste. For food waste, we bought three boxes, so we could split different type of food waste for each box. This would allow us to feed larvae with different types of food and see how it affects them. Because the project would be conducted indoors, we also realized that we would have to have sealed boxes, so there wouldn’t be any problems with smell.
The Blue Wings Composting core research team is formed of Länsiharju school 10 years old children and their teacher. The work of the research team is supported and monitored by national and international Insect Economy researchers.
According to the conducted research to feed mixed biowaste to black soldier fly larvae (Blue Wings) is the most promising approach. The performance of the process is measured by survival rate, larval weight, waste reduction and bioconversion rate.
The purpose of the Länsiharju’s research team is to explore what are the results when black soldier fly larvae live at the school room and they are fed with school kitchen food waste.
The research team explores also how to recycle larvae that are loaded with protein and what to do with the food waste that has been prosessed by larvae.