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Big news for poultry farmers as Hooghly youth starts black soldier fly farming

25 February, 2022 17:08:25
Big news for poultry farmers as Hooghly youth starts black soldier fly farming

Sheikh Mohammad Makim of Daffarchak village in Jangipara, Hooghly, is cultivating black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), a common and widespread fly of the family Stratiomyidae. Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are an alternative source of protein for aquaculture, animal feed, pet food and human nutrition.

Yes. You’ve read it right. Not fish but flies. A Bengali youth has initiated a revolution of sorts tacitly by cultivating flies at home. Sheikh Mohammad Makim of Daffarchak village in Jangipara, Hooghly district has started the cultivation of black soldier fly as an alternative source of protein for aquaculture, animal feed, pet food and human nutrition. Black soldier fly larvae are used as feed. The harvested pupae and prepupae are eaten by poultry, fish, pigs, lizards, turtles, and even dogs. It has been observed that after consuming the larvae, chickens are growing faster and healthier within a short span of time. The quality of the poultry is becoming superior and farmers are saving substantially on fodder costs and farmers are saving on overall production costs. Many poultry farm owners are realizing the benefits of buying fly larvae for their poultry and fish and making a beeline for Makim’s outlet.

Black soldier fly is native to the Neo-tropical realm, but in recent decades has spread across all continents, becoming virtually cosmopolitan. Black soldier fly are not a pest to humans. Unlike houseflies, adult black soldier flies have greatly-reduced sponging mouthparts and can only consume liquids such as flower nectar or do not eat at all. They do not regurgitate food along with digestive enzymes like houseflies, thus do not spread diseases. They are not attracted to human habitation or foods.

According to officials of the State Livestock department, this feeder insect is farmed widely in   large poultry farms in various developed countries of Europe and America. In fact, it is one of the few insect species approved to be used as feed in aquaculture in the EU. 

The harvested pupae and pre-pupae are a favorite fodder of poultry, fish, pigs, lizards, turtles, and even dogs. In our country, the chickens raised by villagers in their homes are usually left open to roam about in the vicinity and these birds scavenge and scour their surroundings and procure larvae of the black soldier fly and devour them to their hearts’ content. This keeps them healthy and their meat tastes juicy and delicious. But in a poultry farms, chickens are usually fed farm-made food which contains various types of chemicals. But fly larvae are completely 'organic' and chicken that are fed fly larvae grow up healthy and their meat is organic and tasty. Currently, the biggest concern of poultry owners is the continuous hike in the price of chicken feed. Most of the ingredients required to make the fodder is imported from abroad and hence poultry food are very expensive. To add to the woes of the farmers, the decline in the imports of   poultry food due to the pandemic, prices have skyrocketed. Amid this scenario, fly larvae is being seen as a game changer in poultry business.


Jaharlal Chakraborty, president of the state veterinary council, emphasized that although black soldier fly farming is presently the most widespread form of insect farming in the world due to its rapid production cycle and high concentration of protein, BSFL farming and trading in India is yet to pick up. Thanks to their short life cycle (the larvae can be harvested after 13 days),and their extremely high reproduction rate, about 1.5 kg of feed is required to  get 1 kg of consumable BSFL. This is a way more optimal rate! Besides, black soldier fly larvae farming provide a sustainable source of feed for fish farms and livestock. BSFL farming and insect protein processing is not just good for the environment, it represents a profitable business opportunity for farmers. Compared to traditional livestock, BSFL farms can be set up much more easily, and raising the insects requires much less effort on the part of the farmer. Use of BSFL will ensure the production of high quality delicious chicken meat and poor farmers will be able to reap profit from the project. He plans to write to the state minister to utilize the state machinery and spread the word across and encourage poultry farmers to take the plunge and consider BSFL as a profitable poultry feed. Madan Maiti, president of the State Poultry Federation has plans to meet and seek advice from Mohammad Makim before starting the project.  

A native colony of black soldier flies can be started in the warm months by attracting the female black soldier flies to lay their eggs near a source of food with a strong odor. One method to attract the black soldier flies is to start a compost bin using a mix of kitchen scraps that are a couple of days old. Mohammad Makim bought the fly he is cultivating from Indonesia. Adults can live typically 47 to 73 days when provided with water and food, such as sugar in captivity or nectar in the wild, or survive for about 8 to 10 days on fat reserves gathered during larval stage when water is provided. The larval stage lasts from 18 to 36 days, depending on the food substrates provided to the larvae, of which the post-feeding (pre-pupal) stage lasts around 7 days. The length of larval stage can be delayed by months due to low temperature or lack of food. The pupal stage lasts from 1 to 2 weeks. One kilogram of larvae produces 500-1000 flies. And 400-1100 larvae from one fly. Biman Mondal of Dinhata in Cooch Behar, procured larvae from Makim and has now started rearing black soldier fly in his home in the village. He is a poultry farmer and is also into pisciculture. He first came across Makim’s BSFL farming through  a video beamed on YouTube channel and decided to take the plunge. He is hopeful of a good harvest in the upcoming season.

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