Some most common issues beginners face when starting black soldier fly farming are the location, ways to treat the smelly smell, ways to make the breeding cage, and the focus on one product. Let's see some insights from their experience so we can learn & make some better-informed decisions.

#1. The Location

If you're building a black soldier fly farm from scratch, then searching for a good location is one of the key points.

This is also related to a common question people ask: Do black soldier flies smell?

And here is the answer:

Location: The Smell

The answer to the above question we've just seen is: Yes, black soldier flies do smell. Because we're dealing with organic waste, which gives off an unpleasant smell for people and animals around. So the smell is an inevitable part of the business. Thus it's usually recommended to find a place that's a bit far away from residential areas.

The neighboring houses may not be happy with the odor as they have kids, older people, customers or pets that may not stand the smell. It affects the whole local area as the winds carry the smell around.

In reality, some farms were forced to shut down or stop operation due to the reports of the local residents to the officials of this bad smell. So if you can find a place that's not too densely populated around, it's better for the business & will not bother anyone around.

If You Can't Find a Place, Then Treat the Smell

If you can't find a place, then another way is to reduce the smell. We can make it less unpleasant by using more veggie-based contents & less meats or high-protein stuff. Also, it's possible to use effective microorganism (EM) or microbial enzyme to pre-treat or ferment the foods for 3-4 days.

This deodorizer helps lessen the smell tremendously. The food waste feed will have a light sour scent that's bearable. It also keeps the pests & bugs away. This will also be much easier for you, your employees & any visitors to the farm to work and tour around. If you have chickens or fish in the farm, it's easier for their noses as well.

The second consideration for a location is:

Location: The Food Waste Supply

It will be very inefficient to be moving around & around (one tour, then back and then back again) to get the foods or waste supply in large quantity. So look for a location where it's near a good waste source at low cost. For example, near a soybean milk factory where they discharge lots of soybean waste. Most are happy to deliver tons to you in a big truck at a reasonable price. Or a local market where lots of leftover foods are left in piles.

Look around areas where the routes are good & well-maintained so they won't go down or disappear any time soon. This is important if we're in it for the long game. Also, if there are people or businesses depend on these roads to get around or deliver stuff then it's a good sign that it's quite established or still growing okay.

And finally:

Location: The Customers

Choosing a facility near your potential customers will help save shipping costs & give you a bit of competitive advantage from the start. People who raise chickens, pet stores, fish farms, garden centers may be interested in the black soldier fly products. Some restaurants may also take this because they see it as an edible bug. When your business get bigger, then you can extend out to more customers from far away or from different countries in the world.

#2. Learning Experience

Another reason why beginners may fail at BSF farming is because of the lack of experience. From the sharing of one grower, when he first started out there was no one there before him to teach him the ins & outs of the business.

At that early time, the sellers did sell the BSF eggs, but they didn't teach or show you insights or anything related to the raising or breeding methods. If you wanted to learn, it'd cost $1000-4000 for the info. In places like China, Indonesia and Thailand, they have been applying BSF for many uses since the 1990s and earlier. They are really the OJs. But fortunately, this bsf business is beginning to gain traction in many other countries.

As of now, you can find lots more information to begin with online, from books & events or on YouTube. It's a truly fortunate unfolding for many younger generations & to keep this way of farming alive to inspire many more. For beginners, it's good to start with an I-don't-know-anything mindset or to be like a sponge that absorbs info from here & there and choose the best direction for your purpose.

Some tips to get started:

  • Start with a small amount to experiment & work it up from there
  • Find your market or the people who may be interested & join the community
  • Think of more ways to add value with BSF other than their eggs
  • Build good breeding cages to avoid BSF death or egg loss
  • Moisten the incubating bed for better hatch rates
  • Find good sustainable reasonable price feed for the larvae

One Mistake of Focusing on Only BSF Eggs

May we extend a bit on the idea of product creativity. Far too many starters focus on only the eggs of BSF as a return on their investment. This is very understandable because the price of eggs is very high–about $1000/kg at one point in time. But to be more flexible, it's good to diversify the product branches one step at a time.

The frass (the residue of BSF exoskeleton + undigested foods + poop) of the BSF, for example, can be valuable as a fertilizer. The juice or liquid discharged can be matured to use as compost tea. Also, if we squeeze the oil out of the BSF larvae, we can store the products for longer & use the oil as a feed for animal. There are endless other possibilities like pelleted fish food, pet food, restaurant snacks, power protein bar, etc. We don't want to sound either too rosy or too negative, but it's good to take this one step at a time in order to expand out.

Also, if you buy soybean meal as feed for the larvae, buy it from some soybean milk factory. They usually ship them in individual bags so you don't need to spend time or hire people to stuff them into bags later. Some other places just drive the whole truck-load of soybean waste there and unload it–without any portioned bags or stuff. The drivers may or may not help you move the waste to the suitable place (near your BSF) for processing. So this is a point to consider.

Grab a ball of soybean waste & try squeezing it a bit. If it's too dry, then the protein remaining inside may not be that high anymore. If the color turns quite dark yellowish, then it's a bit old. Depending on your time window, old foodstuff may house other maggots if not well stored. If the foods are too moist, we may need to de-water them so they don't turn too runny when feeding the larvae.

So these are the little things you may take into account when starting your business. The thing that people complain most about is the hiring workers or labor costs for small tasks here & there.

Good Luck Getting Your Colony Started

Best of luck getting started with your BSF. Sticking to it long enough & you will learn the way in and out. Share with us any experience you have & all the best.

Responses to Readers' Questions

Can I get anyone doing this in Nigeria where I can learn the practice

--> Thanks for your question. One place I have heard of is ProteinMaster Nairobi. They are not based in Nigeria but they have people visited and trained with them from Nigeria. If you are interested, here is their contact email [email protected] (Kim and Ben) and YouTube channel. I'll let you know if I stumble upon any good farms near your area. I hope this helps!

how do you store your compost/black soldier fly larvae in the winter? I think mine all died because it got too cold and think I may have to start over.

--> Thanks for your question. First of all, sorry to hear about the loss. Regarding storing black soldier fly larvae in the winter, can you check if the temp in your area is below 20F (or -6C) on coldest nights. As temp below this point may easily kill the larvae. With that said, if it's from 50-60F (10-15C) and above, though a bit cool, the larvae can still survive at this temperature point.

If you notice that the temp is quite cold, you could consider using a light source for heating/warming up near the growing area. If I remember correctly, I have seen some growers hang a light bulb above the bucket (with a lid on) where they keep the larvae in the winter to keep them warm. Together with that, you could consider elevating the feeding container above the ground. Since it's not directly touching the cold ground, the gap will create a sort of insulation layer to keep the thermal balance.

In any case, if the ambient environment is not working in our favor, and you happen to have a wine fridge around, you can consider storing the larvae in the wine fridge. People put the larvae in plastic bags (like Ziploc bags) and leave them in the wine fridge (temp around 50-60F/10-15C). Although they may turn motionless and get smaller, the larvae are not dead! When it warms up again, you could take them out and gradually introduce them back to the light. They'll wake up and be alive again. In a dry, dark, cool environment, the larvae may survive for up to 6-8 months without food.

I have posted some ideas for over-wintering BSF larvae in the winter in another post. I'll drop a link here if you're interested: 'How to Over-Winter BSF Larvae"

This is a post on storing bsf for your reference: "How to Store BSF Larvae in the Fridge"

Thanks & Have a good day.

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