The world’s largest commercial fly farm, which is said to be a step toward shaking up the global animal feed market, is under construction near Cape Town, South Africa, according to a report.

The 8,500 square meter facility built by AgriProtein will harvest maggots from about 8.5 billion flies house is giant cages. The company’s goal is to produce 23.5 metric tons for insect-based protein meal and oils and 50 tons of fertilizer per day.

“The farm will take in 110 tonnes of organic waste, out-of date-food, uneaten food from restaurants, hotels, some animal manure and some abattoir waste” and recycle the nutrients, said Jason Drew, the company’s co-founder, in the report. “We copied the idea from Mother Nature. In 15 years, it will be as normal to recycle your waste nutrients as it is to recycle your tin, your glass or your plastic today.”

Sydney-based Twynam Agricultural Group one of the companies that have provided US$11 million to fund the project and a second facility in South Africa. AgriProtein intends to build 38 more fly farms, and said 43 countries have expressed interest in the farms.

“We are looking at returns on investment in the mid-twenties,” Drew said. “We aim to undercut the cost of fishmeal by about 15 percent.”

The farms will be stocked with common houseflies, black soldier flies and blowflies, which consume most forms of organic waste. Three to four percent of the flies’ eggs will be hatched to maintain the farm’s insect supply.

According to AgriProtein, insect larvae are the natural food of chickens and fish, and their nutritional composition is as good as that of fishmeal and better than soy. Fish and chicken farmers have already signed contracts to buy the feed, an alternative to soy and fishmeal, Drew said.

AgriProtein products have been approved for sale in South Africa, and Drew said it hopes to secure distribution licenses in the EU within the next two years. Approval is being considered on a state-by-state basis in the United States and Canada.