Black soldier fly farming (BSF) is an emerging industry that provides a low-cost waste management solution for converting agricultural waste into high quality fertiliser (BSF castings or frass) and protein (BSF larvae as animal feed). However, the BSF products cannot be developed further in Australia until biosecurity, environmental and food safety risks are addressed. This collaborative project between industry, government and researchers will a) develop frass as a slow-release, granulated fertilizer product that is safe to handle, transport and apply; b) quantify the biosecurity and environmental risks associated with applying frass to cropping and c) overcome the barriers to adoption by involving policy makers and farmers during trials and assisting early adopters through extension activities. Adoption of BSF technology and its products has potential to increase productivity and profitability via reduced input costs and alternative revenue streams on agricultural enterprises.
Primary industries produce large volumes of waste by-products that often contain significant amounts of macro and micro-nutrients that are typically in a dilute, nutritionally unbalanced form for agricultural crops (Abbott et al., 2018). The handling, management and application of wastes are costly and time consuming for producers whilst transportation and reuse off-farm is currently impractical and uneconomical. Poor livestock and waste management practices in the past have led to stable fly (as opposed to the Black Soldier Fly which is not a pest) outbreaks, odour, GHG emissions and nutrient leaching and runoff into waterways. This has resulted in stringent application restrictions being imposed for manure application through Health Regulations 2001 and through the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act). These regulations on manure disposal have led to loss of important marketing options causing significant cost increases (> $4 million annually). Currently, composting to Australian Standards on-site is both costly and lengthy and does not have sufficient scale, capacity or end market to process the entire allotment of manure. Consequently, large quantities of manure (225,000m3 of manure per annum) are transported long distances to broadacre agricultural zones for pasture and crop fertilisation at a significant cost to producers.
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BSF technology has potential to improve profitability and sustainability for livestock and cropping industries by significantly reducing waste volumes whilst creating a high value fertiliser product. Once fully commercialised, BSF cultivation could process hundreds of tonnes of waste per day, requiring only a small amount of space. The BSF technology is both suitable for medium to large enterprises and provides more flexibility for smaller enterprises or regional hubs. The BSF reproduces rapidly, have high feed conversion efficiency and produce half a tonne of frass for every tonne of waste processed (Moula et al., 2018). The BSF process has also been shown to significantly reduce the biosecurity and environment risks associated with waste management. The BSF larvae outcompete stable fly, decrease the nutrient content (total N by 55 and P by 45%, respectively) and lower pathogen loading of E. coli and Salmonella levels (Lui et al., 2008; Erickson et al., 2004). In addition, BSF have been shown to reduce antibiotics and antibiotic resistant genomes in waste substrates (Cai et al., 2018). Therefore, the resulting frass fertiliser has potential to mitigate and lower the risk of contamination, GHG emissions, nutrient leaching and runoff. Developing the frass as a high quality fertiliser would open new markets and create new revenues for profit, making BSF more economically viable for the livestock industries. However, the agronomic and economic value of frass fertiliser as well as the environmental and biosecurity risks of their application needs to be evaluated to increase adoption. Also, the frass fertilizer products must be tailored to crop nutrient requirements, machinery and operations. In addition, research is needed to understand the mode and mechanisms of delivery so that the frass can be developed as a slow release fertiliser to minimise the loss of nutrients through runoff, leaching and GHG emissions. Further research on the social license and regulatory