Insect Farming

Nature’s Nutrient Renewal Expert


The black soldier fly (BSF), or Hermetia illucens, is a local beneficial insect that can be found all over North America and around the world. The adult black soldier fly does not eat, sting or bite — which means it’s not a pest or a vector for disease. All it does as an adult is mate and reproduce. The females lay eggs that hatch into larvae which naturally feed on decaying organic matter.

BSF larvae are voracious eaters as they need to store enough energy to sustain the entire adult stage of their lifecycle. At Enterra, we feed pre-consumer waste food to BSF larvae under controlled conditions. These indigenous insects then do what comes naturally – they rapidly transform the waste nutrients into protein and fat. After a 14-day feeding cycle, the larvae are harvested and processed into sustainable animal feed ingredients. The larvae also produce an organic natural fertilizer that is rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes.

Our Process


Process Flow

Black Soldier Fly FAQ

Interested in learning more? Here are some FAQs about this unique species.

The black soldier fly is a local beneficial insect, commonly found in BC and in temperate climate areas around the world. They occur naturally in forests, parks, and backyards. At Enterra, we have used the lifecycle of this beneficial insect species to mimic its role as nature’s renewal experts. Our black soldier fly population originated from regulated sources in Canada and the US and there has been no genetic modification whatsoever.

In nature, adult black soldier flies lay their tiny eggs in dry places near larval food sources; the eggs hatch into larvae, which move into the environment to consume a variety of organic waste sources, like over-ripe fruits and vegetables as well as fish after they have spawned, up-cycling this waste to produce a grown larvae rich in protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. The larvae provide an exceptional source of animal protein and fatty acids critical for the survival of birds, fish, reptiles and animals, after up-cycling complex food nutrients from waste organics. It is interesting to note that the black soldier fly larvae eliminate harmful bacteria, like E.coli and Salmonella.

The adult fly, which has a life span of only 7 days, does not sting or bite. In fact, the black soldier fly does not eat as an adult fly – for this reason the larvae are quite large, to provide all of the protein, fats and energy for the adult lifecycle. It is a natural source of food for birds, reptiles, fish and animals, providing an important source of nutrients and chitin in the ecosystem. Because the adult fly does not eat and does not lay its eggs in decomposing materials, it is not a pest or a vector for disease, which are issues with other fly species.

The larvae castings, similar to worm castings, are part of the natural fertilizer cycle in the wild. The castings provide an important source of natural nutrients and microbiology for plant growth, and exhibit natural defenses for many fungi and pests seen in farming and greenhouse operations. Enterra has engineered a system to farm black soldier fly larvae under controlled conditions. Our products – dried larvae and organic fertilizer – are Renewable Food for Animals and Plants, and provide a renewable source of nutrients for the human food chain, much like the naturally occurring cycle found in nature.

For further background: The Biopod (http://www.thebiopod.com/pages/pages/bsf.html) is a commercial backyard rearing system for attracting native Black Soldier Flies. These systems are used by small scale farmers throughout BC and Canada. In addition, Black Soldier Fly larvae (commonly referred to by their trade name Phoenix worms) are available for sale throughout Canada and are not restricted.

Wild populations of black soldier fly adults are commonly seen in the lower mainland area of BC and have been reported anecdotally by amateur black soldier fly enthusiasts. However, black soldier fly adults do not generally associate with humans or human dwellings (unlike houseflies). Adult black soldier flies are not considered a pest, as they are not attracted to households, don’t swarm around food items, and therefore tend to remain unnoticed. The adults are wasp mimics and may not be recognizable by many in the general public.

In addition, the black soldier fly requires fairly specific and consistent environmental conditions to grow and reproduce, and these conditions are considered uncommon throughout much of the year in our area. Their populations are substantially reduced every winter, requiring re-colonization each year, thus the black soldier fly is not observed locally except during summer months for short periods of time.

While over 2 billion of the world’s population regularly eats insects as a normal part of their diet, it is not our intention to sell product to those markets. Our objective is to provide a sustainable source of protein as a feed ingredient for aquaculture and poultry farming, as a substitute for more resource-intensive and unsustainable feed ingredients like fishmeal, poultry meal and soybean meal. We are also producing a sustainable source of organic natural fertilizer for use by local farmers, greenhouse operations and home gardens for organic food production.

A significant part of the global population already depends on insects as a critical source of protein and fats in their daily diet. There are over 2,000 known edible species of insects. Insects are rich in protein, essential fatty acids (including Omega-3), vitamins, calcium and magnesium – all essential in a healthy food diet. Insect larvae can be considered “land-shrimp”. Some interesting environmental benefits about using insects as a food source:

Environmental benefits:

• Per pound of protein produced - a mealworm requires only one-third of the land area compared to that of a pig, and produces only one tenth of the amount greenhouses gases for the same amount of protein produced.

• Insects contain about the same amount of protein and essential fatty acids as chickens, pigs and cattle – and about 80% of their body weight is edible, compared to chickens and pigs which is about 50%, and for cattle only 40%.

• Insects can up-cycle discarded food products back into high value animal protein and fatty acids – as direct substitutes for meat derived from fish, chickens, pigs and cattle. This can solve two global problems at once: the loss of food nutrients to landfills and composting and the growing demand for animal protein and fatty acids.

At Enterra, we do not add any water to grow our “livestock”. In fact, we can recover over 4 million gallons of fresh water annually from the fruits and vegetables that we consume as feedstock. For comparison, to grow 1 pound of beef it takes about 1,400 gallons of water, about 500 gallons for 1 pound of pork, and 400 gallons for 1 pound of chicken.

At full capacity, the Langley facility will contain approximately 6 million black soldier flies. For comparison, a typical one acre area of farmland in Langley will contain about 400 million insects (or about 400 pounds total, the same as 75 broiler chickens). [Source: University of California – Davis]

Enterra’s business depends on having a contained black soldier fly population, within the confines of our farm operation. We have specially designed systems that provide controlled conditions for optimal rearing – these conditions rarely occur in the “wild” in British Columbia. All of our broodstock is grown in modular facilities, which are in turn housed in a building to ensure containment, along with ancillary ventilation to maintain a closed system with conditions preferred by the adult fly and larvae. If there is an escape from our farm operation most of the broodstock will stay close to our facility, due to favourable conditions. Those that venture outside will survive for up to 7 days.

Most birds, reptiles and animals are attracted to, and prefer live prey and will consume live black soldier flies and their larvae. Dead flies or larvae, like other soil detritus, are primarily decomposed by bacteria and fungi. Live larvae would be preyed upon by a variety of beetles, wasps, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

“An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not native to a specific location (an “Introduced Species”); and has a tendency to spread, which is believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy and/or human health.” (http://www.nonnativespecies.org/index.cfm?pageid=64) The black soldier fly is not an invasive species, as it is native to North America (including the Pacific West Coast) and has considerable beneficial impacts to the local ecosystem. They are commonly found in climate zones 6 to 11 in North America. Langley is located in climate zone 8.

REFERENCES:
1. http://www.garden.org/zipzone/
2. Entomology and Pest Management, Iowa State University entomologists Larry Pedigo and Marlin Rice (sixth edition).