NC Company Turning Trash into Animal Nutrition

If you are what you eat, then some animals in agriculture may actually be black soldier fly larvae! Liz Koutsos is president of EnviroFlight of Apex, North Carolina.

We raise black soldier fly larva using byproducts from the food and feed industry, essentially upcycling to make sustainable protein and energy that we feed back to animals in the livestock, poultry and companion animal industries. We’re wholly owned by Darling Ingredients, so we’re a part of a family of recyclers, if you will.

Koutsos told me at the recent Ag Allies Conference at NC State University that black soldier fly larvae, or BSFL, is an alternative feed source to traditional proteins.

These insects have this amazing ability to transform what would be landfill waste or low value ingredients into really high-quality nutrition. So we use that potential of the insect to create more ingredients to help feed our growing animal and human populations.

In essence, these insects are turning trash into nutrition requiring fewer resources to grow than comparable protein sources.

We can see black soldier fly larva (eat) anything that is an approved ingredient, grass ingredient or AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)-approved ingredients, so that can be everything from byproducts, let’s say from the baking industry. You know, the cookies on the crackers that don’t make it into the packaging to go to the grocery store that can be byproducts, from ethanol manufacturing like wet stillage, that can be byproducts from the alcohol industry like wet stillage. A lot of the ingredient producers create biomass as part of their process. You create yeast, you’re going to have a liquid waste and product. Black soldier fly larvae are amazing at being able to utilize those byproducts with what would be considered waste of another manufacturing facility to make high value nutrition.

Koutsos says larvae-based feeds do have some innate advantages.

where we see adoption of these ingredients is more value-added properties. So for example, in dogs and cats, you’re seeing companies market this because of hypoallergenicity, or improvements in skin or gut health in traditional livestock species. These ingredients can have natural antibiotic-like properties and so we can use them in like starter diets to help promote intestinal health in newly weaned pigs or in young chickens or turkeys. So we’re seeing very specific application in the animal feed industry to target this value-added properties, much less likely to be more of like a commodity ingredient at this point in time.

But the biggest hurdle to widespread adoption right now is the cost.

You don’t see any concerns for feeding these insect ingredients to things like chickens or pigs or dogs or cats. We all know all of those animals would naturally eat insects. So those are the things that the industry is working on getting more product out there and getting our cost down so we can access bigger markets.