Fly Larvae Used to Remove Organic Waste on an Industrial Scale

A group of researchers from the University of Alicante in Spain present the results of a pilot project in which fly larvae were used to reduce animal feces and manure in a sustainable manner.

The research group Bionomics, Systematics and Applied Research in insects, coordinated by Professor Santos Rojo, conducts the research and development work of this project. With the company Flysoil SL, they have managed to produce at industrial scale the Hermetia illucens fly. It is a species of tropical origin but naturalized in the Mediterranean region since the 1960s and their larvae have a natural ability to feed on organic matter from different sources, including waste.

The researchers selected, from established colonies of flies on the university premises, the most effective varieties for this purpose. During the past two years, they have carried out tests on animal excrements from zoos. Specifically, researchers have just presented the results of a study at the pilot plant designed at Terra Natura Benidorm where fly larvae have processed and removed about 90 percent of the organic waste produced by animals in the park. The remaining 10 percent of organic matter was converted into organic compost.

The Benidorm plant is divided in two: the biofactory where flies breed and where the eggs hatch, and the biodigester where the larvae feed on organic matter. When the larvae reach a certain size, they are separated from the waste and the biomass is processed to obtain other economically valuable and reusable products. Thus, in addition to organic fertilizer, larval biomass can be used as raw material of other valuable byproducts ranging from biodiesel or bio-components of pharmaceutical interest, to its use in animal feed such as aquaculture.

Currently, the 20 million larvae of the plant are able to ingest a ton of waste per day which shows that this technology is much more effective and faster than other conventional techniques of traditional composting and vermicomposting, which removes the residue with earthworms.

“An important part of the technological basis for this work comes from the LIFE-Environment Ecodiptera project, scientifically coordinated by the University of Alicante and focused on the biodegradation of pig manure. However, our research group has developed protocols for breeding and selection of different species that allow the application of this innovative technology to a variety of waste and organic by-products from various sources (food and agriculture industry, meat, catering waste),” Rojo explained.

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