Food shortage and food wastage are a rampant problem that has been addressed countless times, yet often, we often fail to find a balance to the matter. As lands are getting limited, it is difficult to plant crop or livestock to accommodate the growing population. But as people are looking for alternative to counter the problem, one company in South Africa has make the first step by turning flies into food for pets, ad probably human in the future.

Situated in Cape Town, the Maltento farm turns black soldier flies into high quality protein feed that are mostly exported overseas. Each month, the company exported over 10 tonnes of pet food that it produces.

Speaking to BBC, the founder, Dean Smorenberg started the business because of the world’s problem with food shortage as well as wastage. “You’ve got a food shortage, and people who are starving, and then you’ve got a waste problem at the same time. So, I started looking at how we can rebalance that,” he told BBC. The former management consultant started his endeavour by farming black soldier flies in his bathroom back in 2016 before entering the business full-time.

Carbon conscious consumers will find the model quite appealing; the fly larvae feed on waste food products – in this case mainly spent grains from a nearby brewery – turning it into marketable protein and producing a fertiliser by-product. This process consumes less water and land compared to other types of protein production.

In a study conducted by researchers from the UK and Germany, they found that the global pet-food market releases as much carbon dioxide as the total emissions of the Philippines or Mozambique.

“Insects have a lot more value than just being a protein, and there’s no other crop in the world that can give you 52 harvests a year from one space,” Smorenberg said. There are several sections dedicated to each stage of the insects’ lifecycle.

Pupae undergo metamorphosis in a dark room on the ground floor before being moved upstairs to a breeding enclosure, where adult flies under ultraviolet lights lay eggs in mesh cages.

Next door, in the nursery, the eggs hatch into “neonates” which are distributed into small plastic containers full of feed. These are then stacked in temperature-controlled chambers where they grow at an extraordinary rate.

Once the flies grown, the containers are emptied into machines that separates them from the fly manure. The manure will be sold as a kind of fertiliser. The flies’ larvae are then dried out and exported whole to feed pet chickens or turned into rough powder which will be used to make dog food. Others still are pressed for oils or hydrolysed into liquid digest.

To human, the bugs taste earthy. However, it will be some years before we are ready to embrace flies’ larvae as a sustainable food source.