Black soldier flies a game changer in the new age farming

Black soldier flies a game changer in the new age farming

It is an interesting time being a farmer, with the new age farmers finding smart products and innovative ways of farming. One such farmer is Fredrick Kimathi, who has crafted the art of growing and multiplying Black Soldier Flies (BSF). His is a story of brilliance, determination, passion, hard work and thinking outside the box. As he speaks, he utters valuable information concerning BSF farming.

Together with his brother Robert Wanjohi, they have combined their knowledge, skills and resources to put up an elaborate farming enterprise named as Protein Masters. They began rearing the insects two years ago when they encountered them while carrying out research on the internet for cheap alterntaive feed for chicken. To equip themselves more about the flies, they visited International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), a research institute who are the pioneers of the insects in Kenya. ICIPE is headquartered in Kenya and wants to use the BSF to improve life for people in Africa

“We are being driven by the slogan turning waste into wealth. We believe that this waste that has been af-fecting us for too long, if we can be able to change it, it can be wealth. Never see or look at anything nega-tively you can be sitting on a goldmine which can be a game changer,” Kimathi also known as Kim stated. Before embarking on BSF, they were into animal feeds project for several years in Uganda and Tanzania before relocating to Kenya and setting up their base in Huruma area in Kenya’s capital.

The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is a member of the Stratiomyidae family in the Diptera order and is known for its ability to decompose many organic matters before they have time to decompose into compost manure and feedstuff. They are heavy feeders consuming twice their body weight. The larvae are used as nutritional meal that is high in proteins for consumption of farm animals or for fish. The insects are very rich in components of proteins and reduces the need to import concentrates that are added to other types of feeds. The decomposed manure is also very rich in nutrients, odorless and can be easily and economically transported.

Besides rearing the insects, Protein Masterss offers elaborate extensive trainings to farmers who are adopt-ing this type of farming. The charges for the training are Ksh 2,000 per person per every two hours of each day. For instance, he says that for too long people have been consumers of solutions from other people and it is time to turn things around to bring solutions for other people to consume. The company also sells the larvae which he refers to as seeds for Ksh 2,000 per Kilogram.

“Europe for a long time has been the inventor and producer of solutions and we Africans became their con-sumers. It’s now high time for us to create solutions for them to consume as well. Europe right now is re-questing for the flies. Personally I have gotten orders from Europe, 20 tons which I can’t be able to supply for now because my interest is in trainings and selling the larvae,” Fredrick said.

Protein Masters are among the first group of farmers and entrepreneurs in Kenya to learn how to set up BSF production with ICIPE. The centre has been working since 2015 on BSF as an alternative to fishmeal and soy as the main sources of proteins used in animal feeds. Both fishmeal and soy have significant negative impact on the environment.

BSF farming is done in a closed greenhouse to provide the required temperatures, which should range be-tween 26 to 36 degrees for the insects to thrive. “Greenhouse makes this flies very productive. The best way to keep the insects is to store them in raised trays when they are at larvae stage. When they are about to hatch at pupae stage, they are transferred to enclosed small hatcheries with good humidity, right tempera-tures and enough ventilation where they pupate and after 4 days they turn into flies. After 7 to 14 days the flies dies but we have a secret ingredient we give them to extend their lifespan to 21 days. For BSF to lay eggs, hatcheries are induced with a smelly substance containing a mixture of rotting cow dung which en-hances mating and laying of eggs. The essence of extending their lifespan is to enable them lay eggs. Every step should be meticulously carried out with precision,” Kim explained.

Apart from the proteins and the compost, the other beneficial products are the shells from hatched eggs which are rich in calcium. They are applied to soils that are deficient in calcium. The insects that dies in the process are fed to chicken though relatively low in proteins but rich in potassium and carotene. The BSF are also beneficial and necessary, aiding in controlling other insect pests, acting as pollinators and recyclers.

For those waiting for white collar jobs, Kim uses the analogy of the bible where God Created man and put him in the Garden of Eden but the man has migrated from the Garden to cities where there is no land to cultivate and grow food thus hustling. People need to retrace and reposition their tracks and go back to the Garden which is farming.

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