Meet the ex-BCL leader who is leading the black soldier fly farming business

Meet the ex-BCL leader who is leading the black soldier fly farming business

August 22, 2022, 9:45 AM

Last modified: August 22, 2022, 9:44 AM

To gain access to both non-toxic and inexpensive feed, Duranta started breeding black soldiers.

He said that black soldier flies are wild insects available in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. There are thousands of species of flies, but the black soldiers differ in characteristics.

“Black soldier flies stay away from human gatherings. Markish shrubs are their habitats. The flies are non-pests and do not carry communicable diseases. They do not bite,” he said, adding that the feed price per kilogram could be cut in half (from Tk60 now to Tk30) by scaling up the production of black soldier flies.

Value at every stage

The life cycle of a black soldier fly is about 45 days. In all stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult, the fly is valuable in the emerging market.

Adult black soldier flies mate in flight and females lay egg masses, about 500-800 eggs, in slits of a bundle of wooden sticks. This is the first stage. Hatchers can sell the eggs for Tk 150 per kilogram.

In the second stage, the larvae grow out of the eggs in about 22 days. At this stage, the larvae are collected for poultry and fish farms. Each kilogram of larvae would cost Tk 200. Farmers can serve the live larvae or dried larvae as poultry, fish and pet food.

In the third stage, pupae (also called motherfly) are made from larvae and sold for Tk 500 per kilogram. The dolls can be made into protein-rich powder, oil and oil cake. In addition, the hard shells of the flies can be used to extract chitin, which is widely used in skin and hair care products.

Within a week, the pupae become adult flies and survive for the next 8-10 days to breed. The larvae and pupae thrive on biodegradable waste such as kitchen and restaurant scraps, chicken scraps, rotten fruit and anything perishable.

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

“Even the dead flies can be used as animal feed. That means the insect leaves no residue,” Duranta said, adding that harvesting the black soldier flies requires minimal investment and arrangements.

An economical alternative

When Duranta started breeding insects a year ago, the price of each kilogram of larvae was 4,000 Tk. But now he sells 1 kg of larvae for Tk500. Every month he harvests about a ton of larvae and pupae.

A Munshiganj-based poultry farmer Nuruzzaman collected 5 kg of dolls from the Sonamati Agro farm a month ago. The pupae grew into adults and laid eggs. Nuruzzaman, now serves his broiler chickens with the larvae.

He has a poultry farm of about 600 chickens. When the price of conventional poultry feed became expensive – 3,300 Tk per 50 kg bag – he started breeding insects.

“The chickens treat the larvae as delicious food. This alternative feed has reduced my farm’s reliance on conventional feed by at least 50%,” Nuruzzaman said.

There are about 100 individual farmers breeding insects in the country.

Munim Sarkar, one of them, is so passionate about this farming that he has created a YouTube channel, Farmer Father, to spread the necessary information about black soldier flies to a wider audience.

Munim, a postgraduate student of political science at Dhaka University, launched insect farming in Joypurhat district in March 2020. Occasionally he gives free seminars and training courses on insect breeding.

“I am convinced that both small and large farmers can benefit enormously from the industrial production of black soldier larvae,” Munim said.

Currently, larvae of the insect are widely marketed in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, France, England, Germany, Finland, Belgium, China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

The FAO has recommended that small-scale poultry and fish farmers use the identified methods of their cultivation as a way to reduce production costs and also contribute to environmental health and sanitation. The US Food and Drug Administration has also approved the insect as a feed for poultry and salmon.

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

Photo: Saqlain Rizve

However, Department of Livestock Service (DLS) officials believe breeding black soldier flies requires further research in Bangladesh before it can be widely adopted.

“While there are no proven drawbacks of breeding black soldiers outside of Bangladesh, we are still skeptical about the benefits and harms because no scientific studies have been conducted here. Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) should investigate this,” said one senior DLS officer requesting anonymity.

TBS spoke with BLRI Director General Dr. SM Jahangir Hossain, who said he has no information about this particular form of insect farming.

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