||30 September 2012 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
The battle for the oceans' ever-diminishing fish stocks becomes pricklier every year. We now have too many fishermen, too many boats, too many hooks and nets taking too many fish out of the sea.
Jason Drew (Entrepreneur & Author): "Every single day on this planet 374 000 children are born... 170 000 of us die. That means every evening 204 000 more people sat down for supper than had breakfast that morning - we've got to feed these guys."
Born in London, Jason Drew is an international business leader and serial entrepreneur-turned-environmentalist and author. Together with his brother David, they're hoping to ease the pressure off our fish stocks with their latest venture... waste nutrient recycling using fly larvae.
David Drew (Managing Director): "We don't have enough fish to feed our planet. And what's scary is not that we've just become seven billion [people], it's that we are going to become eight billion the day after tomorrow... not quite [smiles], but only eight years away."
And with so many mouths to feed and not enough food to go around, it's often innocent marine life, like seals, that get blamed for eating too much. And every year over 80 000 seal pups are killed in countries like Namibia. But the reality is that about a third of all the fish we take out of the sea is ground up into fishmeal and processed at factories like these [on screen] situated close to harbours that operate non-stop.
Jason: "To feed fish in fish farms, to feed chickens in chicken farms... and fed to our cats and dogs, our pets."
Neo Motaung (Carte Blanche presenter): "So, as Jason puts it, 'the rich have already consumed the water of the thirsty, the food of the hungry and burnt the fuel of the cold'. Can flies come to the rescue?"
David: "There are three parts to our process: breeding flies, making a food or an animal feed, which is out of dried larvae, and the middle part, which is growing the larvae."
And this quirky team is stepping up to the plate by pioneering maggot farming at their fly lab, situated just outside Stellenbosch.
David: "We're just finishing off on production trials... [around] understanding growing larvae, which becomes our ultimate feed on the waste products that we're using."
Surging global food demands and pressing environmental challenges have caused prices for soya and fishmeal feeds to rocket. And, with a number of green businesses already under his belt, Jason twigged onto the potential of flies while standing in a cow shed in the Saudi desert.
Jason: "And I asked them about chickens and the guys said, 'Ja, we import about two million chickens a month from Worcester.' I said, 'I know exactly where that is, it's a small town near me.'"
Back at home Jason followed the chicken process.
Jason: "And outside - at the back of slaughter houses - were immense dams of blood. And around those dams of blood were flies buzzing. I said to the slaughter house owner, 'But surely there's as much nutrients and good in the bits you throw away as in the bits we eat?'"
In fact, it takes just as much water, land and fuel to produce the bits of chicken that we throw away.
Neo: "Do you enjoy working with these flies - the smell, this noise in the background, this room, this environment?"
David: "It's great because it's different and it's new and it's exciting. And that buzz you can hear, that is the sound of reproducing. And we've got about 40 million flies in here doing exactly that."
Jason: "What we're doing is replacing our need to rape our seas and take the last fish out of our declining seas and, instead, revert to a sustainable form of animal protein for our industrial agricultural businesses."
Neo: "Fish farming was touted as one of the solutions for alleviating pressure off our oceans, but ironically for every kilogram that they sell to the consumer, more than double that is needed to feed the fish on these farms."
David Fincham (Aquaculturist): "Trout and salmon are carnivorous fish. They eat other fish and also insects and things like that. So the percentage of fishmeal utilised in those diets is much, much higher."
Aquaculturist David Fincham says even though Tilapia survive mostly on a vegetarian diet, they still require fishmeal pellets. That eats into his profits.
David F: "In a facility like this we're using nearly a million rands worth of feed a year. So any saving that you make goes straight into your pocket as opposed to the feed mill's pocket."
Tilapia is hand-fed around eight times a day for about 190 days before harvest. Feed expenses on some fish farms could be as much as 75% of the total production costs.
David F: "The whole agriculture sector has to look outside of sea-caught fish as a primary source of protein and find substitutes that are either plant-based or other invertebrate-based type feeds."
And the most unlikely candidate is causing a buzz - the pesky fly. The Drew brothers believe it's the future hero, who is going to help save the oceans and feed the hungry with their offspring - maggots - an explosive source of protein.
Neo: "And where is all this going?"
David: "It's going industrial; it's going big. The fishmeal industry and animal protein feeds have been around for at least a hundred years on an industrial scale. So we've got to be making a hundred tonnes a day of maggots a day. That is 20 tonnes a day of larvae or dried larvae food once we've dried it."
Dr Elsje Pieterse (Animal Scientist, Stellenbosch University): "We've done toxicity trials on it, we've done growth studies on it, we've done sensory analysis on the meat, and this product out-performed soya in all instances."
Maggot meal has a nutritional composition as good fish says Dr Elsje Pieterse from Stellenbosch University. She's been working closely with the Drew Brothers for the past three years.
Neo: "I admire you for being able to be so passionate about this project and to work with them day in and day out because, just being in those rooms where they breed... it just didn't smell very good."
Dr Pieterse: "That horse back there might think, 'Oh, they really stink, they are standing up-wind.' So what's not nice to us might be very nice to them. It's their pheromones, you know, it turns them on."
With room temperatures set for maggot-making, the reproduction cycle from fly to animal feed is super quick.
Jason: "Two mature flies get together and they mate. The female lays 750 eggs... maybe a thousand eggs."
The eggs go onto a substrate, which could be blood for the house flies and rotten vegetables or cow poop for the soldier flies.
Jason: "And if they've got enough food, they explode... literally! One kilogram of eggs will turn in 380kg of protein in about 72 hours."
Dr Pieterse: "We harvest them from the substrate. Then they get washed and dried, milled and then they go into an animal feed."
Neo: "This is where it all starts at an abattoir like this [on screen] where blood, normally a problematic waste issue, is now used to make a potent protein product."
Jason: "Here in the Western Cape a big slaughter house might slaughter a million chickens - that's quarter of a million litres of blood. That's a lot of stuff to pour into our systems, our seas. And, instead, we should be recycling it - it's good stuff."
Freddie Williams (Abattoir Manager): "If they can take away the waste, it really helps."
Abattoir manager Freddie Williams spends up to R200 000 a month taking the blood to landfill sites.
Freddie: "Joining a venture like that is going to be beneficial to both parties at the end of the day."
Jason's team is looking at centralised fly factories in smaller communities where abattoirs can drop off their blood in a safe environment.
Dr Pieterse: "We control the flies - they won't fly out and come and sit on your sandwich, I promise. And they won't carry disease, because we keep our flies in a clean environment."
Like it or not, flies are valuable to all of us.
Dr Pieterse: "If we take the waste out of landfill sites, out of disposal sites and we feed them to the larvae, we also prevent these pathogens going into our ground water... from going into our surface water, from contaminating what we are so reliant on."
And maggots might be the answer to more than just the ocean. With a simple formula of flies and thousands of litres of blood, it could revolutionise the chicken industry.
David: "At the moment they eat fish meal, which is crazy because chickens can't fish. God made them little feet for scratching in the ground for finding maggots."
Dr Pieterse: "The wonder about it is that we are actually harnessing what has been there all the time - flies were created to clean up the mess."
And who would have thought that the fly could possibly be the seal's best friend?
Jason: "Nutrients recycling will be one of the big industries to emerge out of the sustainability revolution that we're now in."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.