Kenya's fly-farmer smiles all the way to the bank


ROUSSOSS DEMISSE speaks to writer SILAS NYAMWEYA on how he makes good money after trying his hands at farming black soldier flies.

What motivated you to start the black soldier flies venture?

First, through my first venture, Mushroom Kenya. I interacted with so many farmers who always mentioned the cost of feeds as one of the biggest challenges that they faced. I researched and realized that black soldier flies were a good source of proteins for animals yet easy to start and require less space to set up. I got interested and decided to help the farmers address the challenge.

Secondly, the idea of turning waste into valuable products that can earn money was key. The black soldier flies feed on market waste. This helps in reducing food waste. We now advocate for and offer sustainable management of food by providing a systematic approach that seeks to reduce wasted food and associated impacts over the entire life cycle, starting with the use of natural resources, manufacturing, sales, and consumption and ending with decisions on recovery or final disposal.

When did you start this business and at what cost?

We started the venture in 2018 on a small scale. The startup capital was Sh15,000 which got us a kilo of the colony (pupae) to multiply, a few jerrycans split into half used as trays, and a small unit for housing the trays. We did not have a greenhouse because we could not afford one at that time. However, the capital required to start the venture highly depends on the scale and the expected output. A farmer can start at a level they can afford. However, the standard start-up capital for a level that makes business sense is Sh150,000.

Take us through the day-to-day operations at your typical farm...

It does not have a lot of work. The operations involve waste collection mainly from the market and preparation that normally involves sorting, washing, crushing, and fermenting. However, this is not a daily activity. Once the feed is prepared, the daily operations involve feeding the larvae, checking the laying flies, harvesting ready pupae, and drying the harvested pupae because the black soldier flies are mainly harvested at the maggot or pupae stage.

 What are the products from black soldier flies and how do you earn from them? 
There are many products that we get from black soldier flies throughout their life cycle. We get eggs that are laid by adult flies that we sell to upcoming farmers at Sh2,500 per gram, which is enough to produce three to four kilograms of maggots when hatched. 
Maggots and pupae are used as colonies for those who want to set up their farms. We sell at Sh2,500 per kilo, dried pupae that we sell to farmers at 200 per kilo, and vermicompost - the organic manure - that we use at our farm to grow vegetables and sell the surplus to organic farmers.

Is there a special license/certificate needed to start operating this type of business?

No. A license might be needed at the value addition stage. For example, when you are formulating an animal feed from black soldier flies and the Kenya Bureau of Standards has to inspect and certify it.

What are some of the key challenges?

One of the main challenges in black soldier fly farming in Kenya is scaling up the operations to be able to seriously compete with traditional animal feed suppliers at an industrial level.

 How have you personally benefited from this venture?

The venture has enabled me to lower the cost of feeds for my poultry project, which has allowed me to channel the feed’s cost to other projects. The project has also helped us create connections with farmers and share ideas.

How much do you make in a month?

We make between Sh35,000 and Sh50,000 from product sales, farm visits, and training.