By Lauren Kramer, SeaFood Business contributing editor
Published on 02 April, 2012
Any fly fisherman will tell you that fish will gladly eat flies. So why are aquaculture farms feeding them fishmeal, particularly when costs continue to skyrocket?
When Jason Drew and his brother, David, founded AgriProtein in the village of Tulbagh, South Africa, in 2009, their primary objective was to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of fishmeal in industrial farming by substituting it with what they call “magmeal,” or fly larvae.
In its test facility in Tulbagh, the Drew brothers and their team purchased a colony of musca domestica, the common house fly, and created a fly farm, feeding the flies on waste nutrients that local abattoirs (slaughterhouses) paid them to take away. The company’s first two years were full of trial and error as it conducted R&D.
“We needed to cram the industrialization of fly farming into a few short years and we nearly gave up several times,” says Jason Drew.
The fly farm has 22 cages, each one holding up to 750,000 flies. Learning how much water to provide the flies was one challenge, he says. “Flies need water but drown remarkably easily, so we had to find out how to provide enough of a drinking surface for them to have the water they needed.”
Another obstacle was getting the flies to lay their eggs in one place and learning how to grow fly larvae.