When it comes to sustainable and affordable alternative sources of protein in the foodtech industry, many entrepreneurs and startups in the agrifood ecosystem would immediately think of crickets, which are the primary insect being harvested as they are cheap to produce and maintain while being a rich source of protein for both humans and livestock. However, another viable, sustainable source of rich insect protein is emerging in the agrifood ecosystem of Southeast Asia, and that is the black soldier fly larvae. Indeed, one enterprising Malaysian startup, Life Origin, is seeking to promote the mass adoption of black soldier fly larvae as a nutritious food source in the region in order to address the challenges of feeding an increasingly growing global population.
On why black soldier flies are an ideal source of protein for livestock and animal feed, Life Origin elaborates by saying that currently almost 60% of the world’s grain is being used as animal feed for farm animals, and that there are several countries that have to import their animal feed which means that food security is a major concern for the importers. As an example, Life Origin mentions that their home country of Malaysia has had to import 60% of the food used to feed its poultry. The foodtech startup offers up black soldier fly larvae as an alternative solution to conventional animal feeds as they afford several advantages and benefits to both producers and consumers alike. For one, black soldier fly larvae are in fact known as one of the most efficient animals in the world at converting feed into biomass, and are also very good at converting waste into animal feed. The insects also thrive in the warm tropical conditions of Southeast Asia, and are a non-invasive species that will not harm the local ecosystem.
Compared to houseflies, black soldier flies are not a nuisance to humans at all as they do not spread diseases. In fact, they tend to avoid humans and are mostly attracted to rotting matter, especially the egg-bearing female flies. They can actually act as a natural pest control of sorts since their relatively larger size compared to houseflies means that they are able to prevent these pests from laying eggs in decaying matter by eating their larvae. As a food source, black soldier fly larvae make excellent animal feed because of their efficient ability to convert the food given to them into protein, meaning that a larvae can constitute as much as 60% protein besides being rich in calcium and other important nutrients. Black soldier flies also reproduce at a very high rate and are easy to maintain, thus making them more cost-effective to farm compared to other animals which take a longer time to produce and have a higher upkeep cost. The larvae also matures very fast and can be harvested in just 2 weeks at most, and they can be fed with purely organic waste matter instead of other animal feed, thus offering a sustainable and environmentally safe food security solution.
Life Origin currently offers 2 black soldier fly products – the Dr. Larva Wholesome Feed and Life Soil organic fertilizer. The Dr. Larva Wholesome Feed product consists of live larvae that can be used as an excellent nutritious feed for animals and pets, while their Life Soil fertilizer is the leftover product of black soldier flies which is great for enhancing soil conditions to better facilitate the planting of crops in a sustainable manner that does not harm the land.
The foodtech startup was a participant of the Selangor Accelerator Program 2019, a Malaysia-based premiere startup program intended to grow and nurture the local startup scene. It was also one of three startup winners to emerge at the MaGIC and Agritech and Food Bootcamp demo day held last month during the Global Agritech Summit 2019 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Life Origin, the black soldier fly larvae-focused foodtech startup, will continue its mission of pushing for environmentally sustainable and safe alternative protein food sources as the global population continues to grow and strain the world’s available resources. With the increased experience and recognition gained from participating in the aforementioned accelerator program and bootcamp, the startup may well make black soldier fly larvae a mainstream food source sooner rather than later.