Jul 11, 2020

Former Silicon Valley executives now farmers in El Nido

The Black Soldier Fly (BSF), a native of most tropical and subtropical countries, is more like an ecological hero. It all started when the Silicon Valley executives settled in El Nido six years ago to sail and scuba dive.

Photo courtesy of Thierry Giron.

For many of us, flies and most insects seem more like a nuisance; but not for Dustie and Thierry Giron, co-founders of Kalawili, a permaculture farm in El Nido town.

The Black Soldier Fly (BSF), a native of most tropical and subtropical countries, is more like an ecological hero. It all started when the Silicon Valley executives settled in El Nido six years ago to sail and scuba dive. By chance, they were offered to lease seven hectares of farmland in Lio, a barangay located five kilometers away north of El Nido. Soon they started to grow fruit trees and eventually ventured in growing vegetables and raising a few chickens for fun.

 

Black Soldier Fly (BSF). Photo courtesy of Thierry Giron.

They quickly realized the Palawan soil was very poor and the necessary fertilizers and chicken feed were expensive and had to be mostly imported. They decided to look for a more local and sustainable way to feed the soil and their chickens that resulted in experimenting with composting and worm farming which solved some of their problems.

Parallel to this, the growing number of tourists in El Nido meant more organic wastes from restaurants and markets that ended up clogging the nearby landfill to the point where the municipality refused to take them. Most ended up being burnt, buried or fed to pigs with all the associated problems of CO2, methane emissions and pathogens being transmitted to animals.

 

Photo courtesy of Thierry Giron.

Traditional composting and worm farming cannot accept direct food wastes as it quickly turns anaerobic so they decided to look for a solution that would take all these food wastes and at the same time create fertilizer for their soil and protein-based food for their chicken.

“BSF larvae we produce are used as protein to feed our chicken. The compost, on the other hand, is used as fertilizers for the soil,” Giron said.

In 2017, they got word that Europe, Canada, and a few other countries would allow feeding insect larvae to fish and chicken farmers as fishmeal replacement. Larvae from the BSF is widely present in the Philippines. They started to look for these flies on their farm… and found them lurking in the worm bins.

The wooden plates were collected every two days and the eggs were harvested, weighed and were stored in small bins with shredded coconut and brewery malt residue until they hatch days later. The larvae were then kept in these bins until they are big enough to be transferred.

The four-day-old BSF larvae will spend about 12-14 days in each bin, and during that time, their mass will increase about 1000 times. BSF are voracious eaters and are not too picky on the source of food they consume.

Food was collected from various sources such as restaurants, coffee shops, and the El Nido food market. The collected food needs to be sorted, shredded, dried before being given to the larvae. The humidity of the bin has to be carefully controlled and malt and/or coffee residue are sometimes needed in the bin to lower the wetness.

A few months ago, Lio Beach, as part of Ten Knots which is owned by Ayala, got interested in organic wastes management using BSF. The solution was ideal for their multiple Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) that resulted in an agreement with Kalawili to integrate the BSF wastes management system at their MRF.

“Permaculture is an effective way of turning food waste into something more useful. The benefits are significant in sustainable farming as it yields several by-products which may be utilized by the entire community,” he added.

Kalawili is considering offering workshops at their facility to demonstrate to other farmers, communities, towns, and cities on how Black Soldier Fly can help reduce their food wastes.

 

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