Flies – a universal pest for many, but are they also an environmentally viable solution to combat some of the biggest problems facing our world today?

With our ever-growing population – estimated to reach nine billion by 2050 – we’re increasingly reliant on limited resources such as water, land and protein. Now a South African based start-up, AgriProtein Technologies, is turning organic waste into animal feed and biodiesel.

It works on what’s called nutrient recycling, using black soldier fly larvae to create protein-rich animal feed. In the business’s main factory in Cape Town, an estimated 110 tonnes of organic waste per day is collected, dried for water content, blended and fed to the larvae. This waste comes from a variety of sources including: hotels, households as well as offal from animal manure and slaughter houses. This reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfill sites and addresses the serious rat problem that many residents in the city face.

The flies are then bred using 300 cages that are built to maximise mating. The cages are supplied with water systems and temperature, lighting and humidity is controlled, so that the eggs are laid in the same area and hatch at the same time. As the larvae grow, they are fed waste and are mechanically separated at the end of their growth stage. They are then dried, crushed and milled into a flaky product which is delivered to animal mills.

Image from Sustainia

In order to generate agricultural protein, a vast amount of land and water is usually required. MagMeal generates just two tonnes of CO2 per ton of feed, which compares favourably with an estimated 10 tonnes of CO2 per ton of fishmeal. And the company claims that the nutritional composition of MagMeal is comparable to that of fishmeal and better than soy. And there are two other useful products too – MagOil is made from the oil of dried larvae and is used as biodiesel, and MagSoil is a soil fertiliser.

MagMeal has won a number of prestigious awards including the United Nations sponsored Innovation Prize for Africa and the Cape Town Design Capital of the Year Green Programme. They are also winners of the World Wild Life Fund – Climate Solver Innovation Award and the Green Times – PEA awards. They are also ambassadors for Green Cape, 110% Green, Stellenbosch Innovation District, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the BioCycle.

– The Khan Academy is a Sustainia 100 solution. Sustainia runs a yearly drive from June to March to find trailblazing new solutions in sustainability, so if you have an innovation to share, you can pitch your project, technology or initiative by visiting: www.sustainia.me/solutions.

- Thumbnail and background pics from Getty Images.