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WNC Food Waste

Quarterly Meeting Recap: Talking Black Soldier Flies

In 2021, the word “meeting” has become synonymous with online platforms and chatting with people in little boxes on a computer screen. But on Aug. 19, WNC Food Waste Solutions decided to take its Quarterly Meeting outdoors as a distanced, in-person event in the covered, open-air venue at Blue Ghost Brewing Co. in Fletcher.

The gathering was originally scheduled to kick off with business and Working Group updates, but when heavy late-afternoon traffic held up the arrival time for many attendees, the first hour organically shifted to a casual meet-and-greet. Some guests grabbed a cold beverage from the Blue Ghost taproom, and the group eventually circled up for a round of introductions — much more fun in person than on Zoom!

From there, the meeting segued into a presentation from Danny’s Dumpster owner Danny Keaton on his exciting new black soldier-fly operation. Danny just debuted his black soldier fly production facility this summer — a project that’s been in development for nearly eight years — and is now selling dried and live larvae as animal feed at various Asheville-area locations. 

From a nutrient standpoint, the larvae offer chickens and other animals about the same protein as mealworms (most of which are imported from China), Danny pointed out. But from a food-waste reduction standpoint, these industrious larvae have the potential to be large-scale game-changers.

Classified as beneficial insects, black soldier fly larvae can eat twice their body weight daily, enabling them to process enormous amounts of organic waste within just a couple of weeks, turning it into rich, odorless castings, or “frass,” which makes an excellent fertilizer. Traditional composting methods, by comparison, take many months. 

As part of the research for launching his black soldier fly facility, Danny visited China, where black soldier flies are commonly used for processing food and animal waste as well as feeding livestock. While he is currently producing the larvae for chicken feed rather than using them for large-scale food-scrap processing, Danny told attendees that his vision is to one day scale up significantly to a larger space and equipment that would allow him to process food waste for the community.

Danny came to the meeting equipped with some undeniably captivating visual aids — plastic bins filled with three developmental stages of black soldier fly larvae, another  bin filled with squirming larvae busily devouring some Brussels sprouts and tomato scraps, and a screened box buzzing with adult black soldier flies. Attendees were invited to get up close and personal with these items during and after the discussion, and a few participants proved themselves true food waste nerds by plunging their hands into the bins to get a literal feel for working with black soldier fly larvae.

Also present at the event were representatives from Asheville GreenWorks offering backyard compost bin demonstrations and giving away free kitchen compost pails and composting information.

Interested in attending Food Waste Solutions’ next quarterly event? Stay tuned! The group is currently planning a new meeting schedule for the coming year.

Fun Facts About Black Soldier Flies

Did you know:

  • The adult black soldier fly does not have mouthparts. They don’t feed and can’t bite, so they are not known to transmit diseases.
  • Black soldier fly larvae aren’t just for composting food scraps — they are scavengers and rapidly consume all types of organic matter, including algae, carrion, mold, and manure. 
  • The larvae digest biomass before it can decompose, which is very effective in eliminating odor, so they can be quite useful on farming operations for manure management. 
  • Black soldier fly larvae convert organic matter and waste into 42% protein and 35% fat and can be fed back to the animals or birds that generated the waste or used as feed for fish or livestock. 
  • Having a population of black soldier flies discourages houseflies, gnats, and other pest insects from feeding and breeding in the same area.

Article by: Gina Smith

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