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Let Them Eat Flies

Video Story by Mary Fecteau , Producer for QUEST Ohio on Apr 01, 2014

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Let Them Eat Flies
An Ohio engineer puts flies to work turning food waste into
fish food.

Yellow Springs, Ohio, has been known for its counter-culture

vibe since the 1960s, but the day the bug farm arrived its
Do Now is a weekly activity for students to engage
eccentricity rating went up a notch.
and respond to current issues using social media
tools like Twitter. Do Now aims to build civic
Consisting of a few tidy buildings, EnviroFlight sits across from a engagement and digital literacy for young folks.
hip brewpub in an unassuming industrial park. It houses millions
of bugs, but you wouldnt know it from the outside or from the
inside for that matter. The production room is so bright and
clean it could be an industrial bakery. But look closely inside
one of the dozens of stainless steel vats and youll see writhing
insect larvae, happily munching on cookie and cracker crumbs.

The larvae are those of the black soldier fy, a native, Bring science to life at the touch of a fngertip.
nonpathogenic insect. The larvas size increases by 5,000 times Download the latest iBooks Textbooks from
in the span of just a few weeks. Their fast growth is key to the KQED! Explore STEM topics and careers through
operation, but so is their food: mostly pre-consumer waste, aka real-world examples.
the scraps from big food manufacturing facilities. Chicken-
nugget breading is often on the menu, but sometimes its broken About QUEST
cookies or spent grains from the adjacent brewpub whatever Our team of science educators and producers
is cheap and available. Theyll eat anything, said Glen collaborate to bring you current, innovative, and
Courtright, the man at the helm of the operation. diverse science and engineering stories
articles, videos, radio reports, television
broadcasts, and educational materials.

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Let Them Eat Flies | QUEST

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EnviroFlight founder Glen Courtright shows off one of his millions black soldier fies. He
believes these insects are the key to sustainable animal feed. Photo by Anne Glausser.
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For a bug farmer in a hippy town, Glen Courtright isnt what weekly QUEST e-newsletter.
youd expect. An ex-Naval Intelligence Offcer and engineer,
hes now an entrepreneur on the ground foor of what he Email Address
believes is the next big thing in agriculture. Hes spent years
tinkering with the most effcient way to grow his bugs. The goal
here is to grow bugs in a safe and responsible manner to get a
safe product into our food chain, said Courtright.

Black soldier fies mate in the part of the facility that Glen refers to as "The Love Shack" a
structure specifcally designed to get the insects to mate. Photo by Anne Glausser

But where on the food chain will Courtrights bugs reside?

Although his bug protein can certainly be used as an
alternative protein source for humans, Courtright is very clear
that he doesnt think bugs will be crawling onto our plates
anytime soon. Instead, he sees his bugs, among other things,
as a feed augmentation for farmed fsh. The appeal to fsh is
simple. Fish normally eat bugs in the wild, said Courtright,
referring to the fact that aquatic bugs make up a signifcant
portion of most wild fsh diets.

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Let Them Eat Flies | QUEST

Courtright removes a sample batch of dried larva from his test oven. From here, the larva is
ground up and added in place of fshmeal. Photo by Anne Glausser.

Farmed fsh generally eat a combination of corn and soy fllers

paired with fsh meal, made of ground up small fsh like
anchovies and sardines. Corn and soy are cheap and plentiful
sources of protein and fat, but the most popular farmed fsh
(salmon, trout, perch, tilapia) are carnivorous and not inclined to
eat food that doesnt contain fsh meal. According to Dr. Tony
Forshey, chief of animal health for the Ohio Department of
Agriculture, its a matter of taste. Fish meal tastes good for the
fsh, he said, so in order to get them to eat it, they have to like
it and they have to like the taste of it.

The problem is that the small fsh that are used to make fsh
meal are wild caught, and with a growing population of seafood
lovers across the world, the threat of overfshing these forage
fsh is very real. According to Wooster-based fsh farmer Tom
Machamer, the threat extends to peoples pocketbooks. Were
harvesting more from the ocean, he said, so the cost of fsh
meal has increased drastically in the last three or four years.

Fish farmer Tom Machamer gathers up some bass at his farm in Wooster, OH. He currently
uses traditional fsh meal-based feed, but is interested in the prospect of a more affordable and
sustainable feed. Photo by Hannah Weinberger.

This is where EnviroFlight comes in. According to Courtrights

tests, larger carnivorous fsh crave his insect meal the same

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Let Them Eat Flies | QUEST

way they do fsh meal. And because Courtright is able to grow

an abundant, steady supply of insect meal, he thinks he has
created a more affordable and sustainable way to feed farmed

Noting the growing human population, the overfshed oceans,

and widespread wasteful food practices, Courtright says his bug
engineering could help on many fronts. We have the
technology that can solve two problems, he noted. We can
solve a food problem, and we can solve a waste problem.

All with the help of some very hungry fies.

Explore: aquaculture, black soldier fy, bugs, envirofight, fsh,

fshmeal, food, food waste, ideastream, insects, larva, ohio, pbs,
QUEST, WVIZ/PBS, Yellow Springs
Category: Biology, Engineering, Food, Sustainable Food,
Television , Video

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About the Author (Author Archive)

Mary Fecteau is an Educational
Multimedia Producer at WVIZ/PBS
ideastream. A native of Rhode Island, she
began her career in 2007 at ThinkTV in
Dayton, Ohio. Traveling the state for the magazine
program Our Ohio, shes covered everything from chili in
Cincinnati, to coral farms in Columbus, to the infamous
Cuyahoga River in Cleveland and was awarded an Ohio
Valley Regional Emmy for her work in 2010. Shes
currently concentrating on web-based science and
educational media, having completed several STEM-
focused videos for ideastream. Mary holds a BA in Film
from California State University, Long Beach and an MA in
Public Media from Ohio University.

Great piece! Thank you! I hope Stanford University folks will
watch this as they try to fgure out what to do with their harmful
and unneeded Searsville Dam (which similarly blocks
threatened steelhead trout). Keep up the great work!

Johan Lastich
This is great idea and video production too!

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Let Them Eat Flies | QUEST

Mary Fecteau

Good idea! What all types of food waste do these guys eat?

Mary Fecteau
The beauty of soldier fies is that theyre not picky eaters.
According to Glen, theyll eat almost anything. He feeds them
a lot of pre-consumer waste broken cookies and crackers,
unused chicken nugget breading, etc. In the past, hes also
taken spent grains from the brewpub across the street.
Generally, whatever is cheap and available.

Very interesting! Sounds like a potential solution to global
food waste. If protein is the goal, this might be more
sustainable than feeding cattle with food waste. Welcome
to another solution.

Mary Fecteau
Yes! Although they've mostly been testing insect meal
for aquaculture, it is certainly a potential protein source
for other livestock.

Lindsey Hoshaw
What a fantastic video! So much information packed into seven
minutes. I can't believe the female fies can lay 500-900 eggs
each! And the larva reach full size in less than two weeks. Also,
great job mentioning that humans could be eating the bugs
directly. It's a valid point though one we often don't like to think
about. Having eaten meal worms, I have to say they taste like
toasted rice cereal.

Mary Fecteau
Hey, thanks! Glen says that his dried soldier fy larvae tastes
like a savory cracker, so, I guess, taste-wise, they're not
much different than mealworms.

Lindsey Hoshaw
Also, this came out on NPR today: The Joys and Ethics of
Eating Insects

Farm Waste Fashionistas Why Soil Matters

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