Flies are the layers of new blue feed industry

Maggots, or black soldier fly larvae, are the clean substance behind a new "blue economy" business starting out at Forbes by Mick Thornett. Photo - Mark Griggs.

Maggots, or black soldier fly larvae, are the clean substance behind a new "blue economy" business starting out at Forbes by Mick Thornett. Photo - Mark Griggs.

Forbes’ newest industry might cause a few people to squirm, but the man behind it, Mick Thornett, is excited about the potential of his new venture – producing fly larvae to provide protein meal for fish, poultry and pigs from clean organic waste.

It’s taken four years of “hit and miss” methods developed by Solution Blue principal’s Mick Thornett, while he earned a living roasting and brewing his own Sagawa coffee brand.

However, a recent partnership with Canberra-based Goterra and the chance to pitch his ideas to potential investors have his aspirations look tantalisingly close to becoming reality.

Mr Thornett and business partner Olympia Yarger, were amongst eight finalists to present at Rabobanks’ FoodBytes Farm2Fork Summit at Cockatoo Island last Friday.

While they didn’t come away with the event’s prize, Mr Thornett says he made invaluable connections through the event.

They even got to show the King and Queen of the Netherlands their project.

“It’s all moving really fast, it’s been massive,” Mr Thornett said.

“We got lots of support – international support – we’ve been connected to tons of people.”

Mr Thornett was initially interested in aquaculture – growing fish – and that’s where this business was birthed.

“One of the issues with that is around sustainability,” he said. “Everyone is looking for alternative feeds to the ocean.”

So he started looking for sustainable options to support the Australian aquaculture industry.

While breeding maggots might sound simple, breeding the right kind of maggot in captivity and on a large scale has had its challenges. 

“We take as much green waste as we can, generally food waste, and convert that into insects as fly larvae,” Mr Thornett said. 

“It’s a really high value product similar for fish meal and through this production we are taking pressure off the oceans which seem to be becoming environmental disasters.”

The fly being utilised is no common nuisance variety.

“We are using the black soldier fly, a clean bush fly which doesn’t distribute pathogens and is native to Australia.

“You never see them, they don’t go near humans or livestock –they are just interested in green waste. But not lawn clippings.”

The fly has a 10-day lifecycle and drinks only a little bit of water to stay alive.

Mr Thornett said the production system is in a continuous feed system which he calls his “tunnel”.

The by-products are also most valuable.

These include meat meal, oil similar to fish oil which can also be used as bio oil; chitan which absorbs heavy metals when used in filter systems; and the frass or faeces has anti-pathogen qualities from the larvae’s saliva as they consume green waste food sources. It also has potential as a fertiliser.

Black soldier fly larvae.

Black soldier fly larvae.