White Oak Pastures, which raises, processes and packages poultry and livestock, received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Producer Grant to turn the black soldier fly into a value-added tool for making compost while also serving as a protein source for chickens.

The fly, native to North America, exhibits characteristics that would be considered beneficial in agriculture, according to White Oak Pastures. The adult fly does not bite, nor is it known to carry any diseases. In addition, the larvae are scavengers, thriving on several kinds of decaying matter such as carrion, manure, plant refuse and waste products. With a dry weight protein content of roughly 42 percent and a fat content of 34 percent, the larvae also make ideal inexpensive feed for chickens. "We are taking an unwanted by-product of livestock processing that has a negative value and creating a higher and better use for it through black soldier flies by creating two value-added products: compost and supplemental feed," said farm owner Will Harris. "And we are creating these products using a resource that is already available to us and without using any energy."


The challenge, so far, said organic farm manager Tripp Eldridge, is maintaining a sustainable population of larvae at a volume suitable for waste processing and a volume high enough to be harvested for chicken feed. Moisture content appears to be big factor in the survivability of the larvae. "Once we get our population secured and maintained, then we'll be exploring a number of objectives, such as the ratio of larvae to compost production, how much larvae it takes to make a difference in the growth rate of the birds, what is the best processing system and cost comparison of larvae as feed compared to other supplements," said Eldridge.