From Maggots to Millions: How A South African Business Makes Amazing Products from Maggots!
by John-Paul Iwuoha and Dr. Harnet Bokrezion, authors of 101 Ways to Make Money In Africa
In South Africa, one young business is doing the unthinkable. AgriProtein is breeding billions of flies on a farm to mate, lay eggs and produce maggots. Yes, maggots, those horrible-looking creatures that make you want to vomit!
These maggots are fed on organic waste material – producing a nutrient-rich fertilizer in the process – before being harvested and dried into a natural and sustainable animal feed. AgriProtein’s maggot-based animal feed is more than 15 per cent cheaper than other alternatives and has been proven to be highly nutritious for livestock, especially chickens (poultry), fish and pigs.
The company recently attracted more than $10 million in capital to build more fly farms in South Africa. This article reveals the lucrative aspects of this business and why it’s a multi-million-dollar business opportunity.
Why should anyone be interested in the animal feed business?
Many of you reading this may be wondering why AgriProtein is going through the hassle of raising maggots to target the animal feed market. Do you have any idea how huge the animal feed business really is? Allow me to break it down for you…
Before a piece of beef, chicken or pork ends up on your plate, the animal is fed on feed to produce the meat that now sits on your plate. Animal or ‘livestock’ feed, like human food, is a booming international business.
The growing demand for meat and fish worldwide is driving up the demand for animal feed used by livestock farmers to grow chickens (poultry), fish and pigs. The amount of money spent on animal feed every year is huge because on average, farmers around the world spend between 40 to 75 percent of their total costs on animal feed alone.
The international trade in animal feed has an estimated turnover of nearly $400 billion every year. Despite Africa’s huge demand for animal feed, it produces less than one percent of global animal feed output. The small amount the continent produces locally is usually never enough to satisfy domestic demand. As a result, the African market currently depends heavily on imported feed from the USA, Europe, South America and Asia (especially China).
AgriProtein wants to shake up the international animal feed business by producing a cheaper and more valuable product that will help farmers around to world to make extra profits by reducing some of their feed costs. This is definitely a product that will interest farmers around the world who have been suffering the burden of rising animal feed prices for many years. If AgriProtein can pull this off in the $400-billion animal feed market, the company could easily be worth millions of dollars in just a few years.
I know what you’re thinking and I totally agree with you; maggots are very disgusting. But to a chicken or fish, for example, maggots are a juicy treat. Apart from its good taste, maggots are very nutritious and rich in proteins, a vital element in every animal feed.
Proteins are important because they are a critical component in developing muscles in these animals which eventually become the meat that we humans eat.
Interestingly, maggots are hardly, if ever, used in animal feeds that are used by livestock farmers around the world. For decades, proteins in animal feed have come from two main sources: soybean and fish meal.
Maggots, unlike soybean and fish meal, are very new to the scene as a suitable source of protein for animals. They are very rich in proteins and contain a wide range of amino acids and minerals that provide the necessary nutrition for livestock growth.
The best part is, producing insect-based protein (maggots) doesn’t come with the adverse environmental consequences of producing animal protein (fishmeal) and plant protein (soybean) which require more land, water and energy resources.
Unlike the prices of soybean and fish meal which are currently going through the roof, maggots are abundant and readily available. As long as you have organic waste, maggots can literally be ‘farmed’ in your backyard. This outcome will help farmers to save costs on animal feed while providing their pigs, poultry and fish with high-value protein.
The Smart Guide to Maggot Farming – The AgriProtein Way
AgriProtein’s facility in Cape Town (South Africa) is the world’s largest fly farm and houses roughly 8.5 billion flies that produce more than 20,000 kilograms of maggots every day. To feed the army of maggots it produces, the facility collects over 100 tons of organic waste every day. This includes leftover and uneaten food from restaurants and hotels, blood and waste from abattoirs and animal manure.
Within the farm, the flies are kept in over 300 cages that are designed to maximize mating. Within these cages, the temperature, humidity and lighting are closely controlled to encourage the flies to mate and lay eggs. A single fly can lay up to 400 eggs in a single day. Every day, the eggs are gathered from the cages and hatched in a separate place.
As the maggots grow, they feed on the organic waste and convert it into protein. In fact, their growth rate is astounding; maggots increase in size nearly 5,000 times in the span of just a few weeks. Their fast growth and efficient conversion of waste to protein is the biggest miracle in the entire process! These maggots recycle smelly organic waste (like blood and animal manure) into odorless humus that can be used as fertilizer to replenish farmlands.
After feeding on and digesting waste for a couple of weeks, the maggots reach the optimum size for harvest and are separated from the residue. Afterwards, they are washed, dried and crushed to extract oil, which is very rich in fatty acids. The rest is milled into a flaked product that is packaged and sold to animal feed mills.
At the end of the process, these are the four main products that emerge as AgroProtein’s market brands: MagMeal™, MagOil™, MagSoil™ and Whole Dried Larvae™.
What’s next for AgriProtein?
AgriProtein’s products have been approved for sale in South Africa and the company expects to secure distribution licenses in the European Union within the next two years. Product approval is being considered on a state-by-state basis in the U.S. and Canada, with Ohio already having granted permission for them to be sold.
In terms of funding and expansion, the company has received more than $10 million to build more fly farms in South Africa. It intends to build another 38 fly farms across the world and has had expressions of interest from over 40 countries. In fact, the German government has offered AgriProtein one million Euros to set up a plant in Germany. In the long run, the company plans to license its proven technology for industrial-scale maggot production to similar farms across the world.
Great things are happening in Africa. You should be part of its success story!
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