Students assess commercial viability of larva meal

February 11, 2015 by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell University
Students assess commercial viability of larva meal
Graduate student Viju Pillai inspects a bag of frozen larvae gathered from the laboratory of Vimal Selvaraj, assistant professor of animal science. Credit: Lindsay France/University Photography

With global meat consumption expected to climb 73 percent over current levels by 2050 and the appetite for seafood booming, Cornell graduate business students are looking further down the food chain to help meet the demand.

Three students in Cornell's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management have examined the of using housefly larva meal as a sustainable, less-expensive alternative to feeding stock and farm-raised fish.

Fish meal, a protein staple in the aquaculture industry, has become economically, socially and environmentally expensive, according to Sara Davis, Brent Filson and Trevor Wirsig. The students have developed a report for Cornell scientists exploring the issue.

To keep pace with meat production around the world, the feed industry is growing at a rate of 3.7 percent annually. Many stock animal feeds contain protein from fish meal, but housefly larva meal mirrors the nutritional content of fish meal, says Vimal Selvaraj, assistant professor of animal science and the principal investigator on an Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future grant that examines how to make larva meal sustainable.

The Johnson students, under the guidance of Mark Milstein, clinical professor of management and director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, see potential in the larva meal business and suggested to Cornell agricultural scientists to focus on aquaculture as an initial market, locating production of larva meal near dairy farms (to obtain manure) and a warm climate for the houseflies.

Students assess commercial viability of larva meal
Undergraduate Josh Goddard tends to the task of raising larva for potential animal and fish feed in the Morrison Hall laboratory of Vimal Selvaraj. Credit: Lindsay France/University Photography

To coax houseflies into hatching larvae, copious amounts of cow manure is needed on which the flies can lay their eggs. Millions of flies can reduce manure mass by half, concurrently lowering manure's nitrogen and phosphorus content. Meanwhile, the larvae can be harvested as farm feed that is chock-full of protein and essential amino acids.

Protein of high biological value is essential to animal feed. Shortfall of quality protein resources like fish meal poses a future challenge for feeding livestock, said Selvaraj, "Larva meal is an ideal ingredient to replace fish meal with identical protein content and amino acid profile."

Davis, Filson and Wirsig said the larvae production is scalable.

"In our process, larva meal is sustainably generated by regenerating protein from waste," Selvaraj said. "This new approach to animal feed production can also make economic sense for commercial viability of a livestock enterprise."

Explore further: Nutritional values established in three new, high-energy protein ingredients fed to weanling pigs

Related Stories

Replacing soybean meal in pig diets

February 28, 2013

Canola, cottonseed, and sunflower products can replace soybean meal in diets fed to pigs, but they contain less protein and energy. To determine if it makes economic sense to use them, producers need to know the concentrations ...

Recommended for you

When does one of the central ideas in economics work?

February 20, 2019

The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy ...

Research reveals why the zebra got its stripes

February 20, 2019

Why do zebras have stripes? A study published in PLOS ONE today takes us another step closer to answering this puzzling question and to understanding how stripes actually work.

Physicists 'flash-freeze' crystal of 150 ions

February 20, 2019

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have "flash-frozen" a flat crystal of 150 beryllium ions (electrically charged atoms), opening new possibilities for simulating magnetism at the quantum ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.