They eat everything and are full of protein. Larvae of the damselfly will also protect the forests

The goalie does not appear. The centimeter and a half fly has almost magical properties, i.e. mainly its larvae, which will eat basically any biological waste. They themselves become a protein bomb and there is still fertilizer left after them. This is why farms are already being established across Europe that see protein from gooseberry as a business opportunity. For now, the Czechia stands aside, but one young scientist and one young entrepreneur want to change that.

Hatworm larvae are found in the wild on rotting remains of plant and animal origin and are therefore extremely resistant to all kinds of bacteria and natural toxins. In pathology, they are even used to determine the time of death. They are extremely efficient and fast in disposing of organic residues, they convert biowaste, for example from food production, into proteins by digestion, of which they are a rich source. And that is why they are used as feed additives.

In addition, it is significantly more ecological than in the case of soy or fish meal, which today are most often used as protein additives in feed for pets or livestock. While massive fishing raids the oceans, soy farmers are cutting down forests to plant fields. One like the other is then transported to Europe across half the world from Asia or Africa.

At a time when the continent’s sustainability and self-sufficiency are gaining importance, including in the debate about protein sources, the prices of which have also been rising in recent years, damsels are starting to have an unexpected value. Experts already thought that the larvae of this fly could be used as an alternative source of protein in the eighties of the last century, but only now is it starting to make economic sense.

Photo: LarvaLoop

Jana Vašíčková and Adam Dostál, founders of the LarvaLoop startup

“Already back then, scientists were describing that dams could be used to process waste. Gradually, entrepreneurs around the world caught on to it.” explains Jana Vašíčková, who has been studying drumming at the Masaryk University in Brno for five years. Even she didn’t have much faith in their abilities from the beginning: “Only when I started experimenting with them did I find out that they eat all organic waste of plant and animal origin. They are perfect machines. Their only goal is to fatten themselves up.”

This is why there are currently farms that feed barnacles with bio-waste and then sell the dried and fattened larvae as a source of protein in feed for farm animals or pets. The largest such farm is in the Netherlands, it stands on a plot of land with an area of ​​one and a half hectares. Others are in Poland or Denmark.

There is no such thing in the Czech Republic yet, but Jana Vašíčková wants to change that with the startup LarvaLoop, behind which, in addition to her, entrepreneur Adam Dostál is also behind. Despite the fact that he is only twenty-two, he has quite a lot of experience with the insect business. He also owns the company Grig, which produces and sells food from edible insects, is number two on the market behind the well-known Sens brand, and has annual sales in the order of tens of millions of crowns.

“We fell asleep in the Czech Republic, so we want to start it here,” says Dostál, whose goalies fit logically into the business mosaic. While in Grig they sell a range for people, LarvaLoop is intended to be aimed at a B2B clientele oriented towards feed production.

Dostál’s and Vašíček’s plan is to build an automated farm in the Czech Republic that will process one thousand to fifteen hundred tons of waste per month, which corresponds to about sixty trucks. “The farm would be about as big as one Lidl store. We can create two hundred tons of live damsels in it, and from that we will get eighty tons of dried protein per month, one thousand tons per year.” adds Vašíčková, who continues to work at the University of Brno. It is said that the fetuses would flow to customers in frozen or dried form.

Photo: LarvaLoop

Larvae of damselfly flies

LarvaLoop wants to start the project as soon as possible, its founders have already invested ten million in the project. But they started negotiations with several partners, mainly with companies from the food segment. They are the ones who have to dispose of tons of waste, for which they pay extra for removal and burning. “We are in contact with large food companies that produce a lot of waste, so it makes sense for them to use it for something useful,” says Dostál and adds: “Building a farm is an investment of up to ten million euros. We are reaching out to investors.”

According to its founders, LarvaLoop’s advantage over the competition is that they can both produce their own diaphragms and have them specially bred. “We are one of the few in this regard,” says Dostál. “Each farm develops its larvae somehow. I, too, create my own line at university, which I cherish and ennoble. Ours eat a little more and grow faster.” Vašíčková completes it.

Diaphragm larvae are perfect machines. Their only goal is to fatten up.

Insects have been talked about as the food of the future for some time, but especially in the Czech Republic, at least for now, the legislation prevents this quite a bit. And this is even more true for damselflies than for crickets, because fly larvae cannot officially be used for human consumption. And not only that. “We’re talking about waste here, but the moment something is called waste, we can’t give it to a guinea pig, because it’s considered a farm animal by law,” explains Vašíčková.

And there’s more. Although in the wild the damselfly normally eats carrion, due to safety measures against the spread of diseases such as mad cow disease, Vašíčková and Dostál cannot give leftovers from slaughterhouses to the larvae. So, only leftovers from bakery production, unsalable rotten vegetables and fruits from food chains or secondary raw materials such as threshing from beer production, which are not formally considered waste, are permissible.


Photo: LarvaLoop

Businessman Adam Dostál

Even discarded food from restaurants is not legally suitable for them. An exception in the law refuses to feed farm animals leftover food that customers do not eat in restaurants. “That’s a huge shame. This is the kind of waste that is produced the most, and we could thus have up to a thousand times more material available for processing.” says Dostál.

A Vašíčková adds with a smile, but with a sigh: “There is a lot that will have to change. But if we are serious about sustainability, this is one way to go. We just have to get rid of unnecessary restrictions, of which there are more in the Czech Republic than in other European countries.”

The article is in Czech

Tags: eat full protein Larvae damselfly protect forests

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