One man who is passionate about new agricultural models, Phan Van Be, a teacher at Duc Lap Thuong B Elementary School in Long An Province’s Duc Hoa District, has enriched his life by raising worms, lizards, and other species. In addition, Be earns an extra couple of million dong a month by raising black soldier flies.
While raising 2,000 pairs of pigeons at his house in Duc Lap Thuong Commune, Be and his wife searched for solutions to process guano on Google and borrowed the idea of processing excrement and waste through black soldier flies from countries like Germany and Belgium, where it was already being practiced.
The school teacher remembered that he had previously seen the insect on ficus microcarpa trees and sometimes in local markets, so he then decided to catch around ten black solider flies to study.
After nearly nine months, Be fully understood the lifecycle and habits of the black soldier fly larvae. According to him, the favored environment for fly eggs is wet noodles, and eggs would hatch into larvae after 3-4 days in this environment. Depending on food supplies the larvae grow in around 20 days. This is the period in which larvae contribute to the processing of organic waste because they eat anything from dead animals, fish bones or guano to grow. After that, larvae will turn into a cocoon which covers them for around seven days before hatching into flies.
A black soldier fly typically lives between 7 and 10 days and dies after spawning. The fly ‘farm’ of Phan Van Be consists of two mosquito nets set up on his backyard, which he keeps damp with a squirt of water. When the larvae form cocoons, he puts them in the nets which are capable of housing thousands of flies.
This bucket is used to create a smell, and when we hang several pieces of paper like this on top of the bucket, flies will spawn on the paper. In particular, flies will only spawn on these clean pieces of paper, and never give birth into this bucket of waste. Every afternoon I take the clutches of eggs out of here for incubation.
The habit of only spawning on clean paper originates from the insect’s habit of cleanliness and harmlessness to the surrounding environment. A piece of paper can contain around ten clutches of eggs to be sold for VND10,000 (US$0.45) each. Sometimes Be puts hundreds of clutches into plastic bottles and sends to customers in central locations like Khanh Hoa and Hue City.
Meanwhile, apart from using fly larvae to feed his pigeons, Be also sells worms to bird breeders in Ho Chi Minh City. A kg of larvae is sold for between VND75,000 ($3.35) and VND80,000 ($3.57).
I consider the black soldier fly to be of very high economic value. Its growth time is short and the foods required to raise it are mainly waste rice and vegetables, or foods people no longer need. I hope in the future, this model of raising black soldier flies will be multiplied for other people.
Be’s project, which is called “Feed from Black Soldier Fly Larvae,” won third prize at the 2015 startup competition held by the Ho Chi Minh City-based Business Startup Support Center and the Ho Chi Minh City Young Business Association last August. Moreover, Be and his wife have also founded a company to study, invest in and develop agricultural projects, including the website ruoilinhden.com which systemizes documents on black soldier flies for those who care about the insect.
Unlike the superworm or red palm weevil, black soldier flies are beneficial organisms which could replace protein-based foods in the future. Many countries like the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and South Africa are developing large-scale black soldier fly-raising farms which produce millions of tons per year.
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