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ICIPE trains farmers on use of maggots to make animal feed

By Philip Muasya

Dr Chrysantus Mbi Tanga from Icipe explains the nutritional value of organic Black soldier fly larvae. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Most people dismiss black soldier fly, scientifically known as Hermetia illucens as dirty insects which transmit diseases to humans.

However, researchers at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe), Nairobi, are using the housefly to make cheap but nutritious feeds for fish, poultry and pig. This is a huge relief to farmers who have in the past been relying on expensive feeds, which leave them with small profit margins from their ventures.

According to Dr Chrysantus Mbi Tanga, a research scientist at Icipe who is leading the project, use of insects to produce feeds is cost-effective and offers the farmer a chance to enjoy relatively bigger profit margins.

The insect produced feeds are also high in nutrient value because insects have over 60 per cent of proteins and fat contents as compared to conventional feeds in the market which would only have about 10 per cent of proteins.

To get the feeds from black soldier fly, a farmer should be committed to go the whole route of catching and domesticating houseflies, then later harvesting their eggs which are then grown in specially designed containers until the larvae stage (maggots). At Icipe, Insects laboratory where this technology has been tried for the last three years, the black soldier flies are trapped and kept on enclosed glass containers for mating and egg production.

“We place pieces of small cartons inside the containers for the flies to lay their eggs on. When the eggs are laid, the cartons are then transferred to buckets containing waste material to grow into larvae,” says Dr Tanga. The scientist says the maggots can grow in human faeces, cow dung, chicken droppings and other forms of waste. However for the research, the scientists are using waste from Kenya Breweries.

“We have found out that this waste is one of the best for the eggs to hatch and grow. It takes about 15 – 20 days for them to be ready for harvesting,” he says.

At the harvesting stage, they are big, fat maggots burrowing their way inside the waste.

“You need to harvest them at this stage before they get into pupae stage and then into adulthood (grown flies).”

For harvesting and processing, the maggots are separated from the waste through sieving and placed on direct sunlight for at least two days to die and dry up. When they are fully dried, they are then taken to a grinding machine and ground into powder form.

Dr Tanga says this powder, which is high in protein and fats is then ready to be mixed with maize grains and others to get complete balanced diet feeds for either fish, poultry or pigs. The final products are either in form of powder, cake or pellet.

“Protein content in animal feeds accounts for between 60 – 70 per cent of the total cost. So if a farmer can get this cheaply from insects, it means the cost of the feeds goes down,” says Dr Tanga.

Intrigued by this discovery, farmers have been flocking Icipe offices to get free training.

An example is Mr Kamau Kamuchu from Thika who has registered for lessons at the centre.

“I saw this technology on TV and decided to come over and learn. For me the cost of chicken feeds has been a big challenge, if there is a cheaper way of getting it then that will be a big relief for me,” the farmer said.

Dr Tanga said the centre is open to all people, saying the scientists were willing to offer free lessons to farmers on how to use insects to attain food security in the country and elsewhere in the world.

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