Human excreta could feed billions: From recycled waste to food in Kenya
In Kenya, larvae feast on a mix of excrement and food waste from hotels and agri-businesses to create fertiliser and feed.
In the future, your excreta could help in manufacturing high quality food. Confused?
In Kenya, human excrement is being recycled to high-quality animal feed. Nairobi-based organics recycling company, Sanergy harvests waste from toilets, it operates in a franchise network and feeds it to fly larvae, which becomes feed for animals.
This has shown good results for the locals. Kenyan farmer, Victor Kyalo's chickens have doubled the number of eggs they are laying. Speaking to Reuters, Kyalo said his customers noticed that chickens laid larger eggs which has yellower yolks after using this method to feed them. "Before we were getting like five trays of eggs per day, but now we are getting 10.”
How does excreta become food?
In Kenya, faeces from over two-thirds of Nairobi's inhabitants go untreated due to insufficient toilets. Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company said that many others are not cleaned out regularly. Due to overflow in monsoon, it pollutes waterways as well.
Eight years ago, David Auerbach, co-founder of Sanergy began this project to improve sanitation. Now, his company provides over 2,500 toilets to 100,000 people everyday. In the Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in south Kenya, people pay five Kenyan shillings -- approximately five cents -- to use “Fresh Life” toilets.
Excreta is collected in barrels and sent to the organics recycling factory outside the city. Here, beds of black soldier fly larvae feast on a mix of excrement and food waste from hotels and agri-businesses. The end product for farmers is fertiliser and feed.
In about 10 days, the larvae eat 70 per cent of the waste that leaves behind manure rich in nitrogen and calcium, making it an ideal organic fertiliser. The larvae is then boiled in hot water to kill pathogens and sold to animal feed millers, who grind them into powder with other necessary ingredients to create a balanced diet for poultry, pigs, and fish.
"Right now we are receiving equity debt, and grant investment to scale up operations," Auerbach said. "We're on track for profitability by the end of 2020." The recycling plant is expected to provide 400 tonnes of fertilisers per month after expansion. Simultaneously, larvae production will increase to 300 tonnes per month.
Businesses harvesting insects are rapidly growing as they prove to be a greener alternative over traditional feeds. For instance, harvesting insects either for human consumption or as animal feed has seen a rise when compared to traditional feeds such as soybeans, whose cultivation can lead to deforestation and the overuse of farm chemicals.
As the world looks to feed 10 billion mouths by 2050, sustainable methods for feed are sought after. Fast food giant McDonald’s and U.S. agricultural powerhouse Cargill Inc are among many large companies studying using insects for chicken feed. This reduces their reliance on soy protein as the animal feed business is worth nearly $400 billion-a-year.
According to market research firm Meticulous Research, by 2023 the global edible insect market could triple to $1.2 billion from current levels. This model adapted in Kenya -- where nearly two-thirds of urbanites live in slums -- if adopted in other developing nations, could solve both sanitation and nutrition problems.