The company is branching out from the production of live crickets and meal worms, aiming to scale up production of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) and commercialize its benefits.
David Fluker, CEO of of the Louisiana based, Fluker Farms, said the company is engaging with LSU to develop a model for farming BSFL. It has also established a subsidiary to develop its BSFL business, Soldier Fly Technologies.
Fluker Farms is working with Devon Brits, a graduate student researcher in the entomology department at LSU.
The university intends to reduce food waste on campus, said Fluker. The LSU entomology department received a $60K grant from the LSU Sustainability Fund to develop a campus-based system for using BSFL to reduce LSU dining hall food waste using BSFL.
That LSU project uses pre-consumer food waste generated by the university’s kitchens to feed BSF, said Fluker. It does not work with food thrown out by students. The system will also generate organic fertilizer for use by LSU in the school’s landscaping.
“The LSU’s push is to take the food waste and upcycle that into feedstock; that’s been a great catalyst to help us … to get the research further along,” he added.
“This is one of these legacy projects … with food security issues coming up in 30 years, this is a project I’d love to see take flight, and also to see LSU be at the leading edge of research.”
BSFL production system
Outside of the project at LSU, Soldier Fly Technologies has been working with Brits to develop the company’s BSF production system, said Fluker.
“We’re still working through several constraint points, which is always the case when you’re trying to breed a new insect – or one that’s new to us, we’ll say – but we’re getting close and we’re making great strides,” he added.
The company has addressed initial challenges with egg production, he said. “With any insect, you have to make sure that you can get enough eggs, and so we’ve tackled that issue, and now we’re moving to the next issue,” he added.
The next step is to improve the survival rates of the hatching eggs, he said.
“That mortality rate is a little too high on hatching,” Fluker said. “We’ve got to come up with some new processes at the nursery end.”
The company is also engaging LSU engineering students, seeking ideas from them for potential facility layouts as it plans a pilot production site, he said. That build is pegged in for next year.
“There are a lot of tweaks and a lot of thought that needs to go [into production] before you start ramping up to a larger facility,” he said.
In preparation for increased production, the company has been cataloguing food waste options, he said.
A final market for the products generated has not been determined, he said.
“When we do scale up and we have [sufficient] feedstock quantities, there are a lot of markets [to target],” Fluker said.
The larvae can be dried whole or processed into pellet or powder form.
One advantage that the company has is it that it has been working with live insect production, selling into the pet food industry for many years, so food safety plans and distribution networks are already in place, said Fluker.
“I see this as a logical roll out for us,” he said. “We have so much infrastructure here ready to make it happen.”