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The BUG Picture: Conversion of organic waste to protein rich black soldier fly larvae and nitrogen rich fertilizer

An environmentally sustainable protein to feed the livestock that we eat with the byproduct of organic nitrogen rich fertilizer

Photo of Laura Stanford
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Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The anchor site is on the outskirts of Kigali covering 25km2 - outgrower network and scaled approach will cover greater Kigali of 730km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are African: The full team is African and committed to creating African solutions for the continent. We live, breathe and share the aspirations of our fellow people to prosper in life. 

One of the areas of inefficiency and environmental struggle (also globally) is within the realms of agriculture and how to feed our people - this is therefore an opportunity. 

Proverb: 2 men visited a village where nobody was wearing shoes, 1 man said "It is useless, these people don't even wear shoes, there are no opportunities here. The other man said "Amazing, there is so much opportunity... nobody even has shoes". We share the latter mans views of seeing opportunity to develop and introduce new techniques to an educated and motivated people, to invest in the region not just financially but with new technologies and skills, to allow us all to prosper as one. 

Rwanda is a great launchpad as this technology as it is not currently available in the country. This project will attract attention of policy makers which, we believe, will allow for a great impact on the country's people, environment and economy.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The remarkable story of Rwanda as a country which has risen from the ashes of immense human tragedy to become one of the leading lights of the continent, is evident from the moment one sets foot in the country. 

A population driven by community and growth, steered by a pioneering leadership team with world leading gender equality and future focused government structures set Rwanda apart from much of the region. A country of "umudugudu's" - village sectors - who come together on a monthly basis to discuss community needs and all contribute voluntarily to support the growth and development of their sector, a strongly held practice dating from the rehabilitation work started after the 1994 genocide. There are only Rwandans, no tribes or ethnic lines divide the country, and the message of "kwibuka" - remember - is strong to remind everyone of where the country has come from and why the pursuit of togetherness is so important to grow and progress. 

Outward looking, Rwanda has adopted multiple official languages with Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, English and French spoken across the country to varying levels of fluency. 

With a large returned diaspora, worldly Rwandans can be found in every corner of the country, with experiences of working, traveling and schooling on almost every continent, and plenty of time to site and discuss with the individual about their travels, life and why they came back to help build the country of their birth. 

The "land of 1000 hills" is predominantly green and lush and covered in farm land, with over (80%) of the population deriving an income from agriculture. Swathes of bananas and plantains line the valleys, tea on the hill sides and coffee on the lake shores intercropped with seasonal beans and cassava in terraces on the hills or in river valley irrigated plots. 

The ever present "akabanga" hot sauce adds spice to the road side baked potatoes, brochette's & zingaro - grilled intestines - to be washed down with a warm fanta or a potent banana beer after a days work in the fields or as a bus stop snack on your journey. 

As one of the smallest countries on the continent, with large water bodies and some wildly different neighbors, reaching diverse parts of the country in short times is incredibly cheap, safe and easy using public transport on Rwanda's excellent road network. 

Consequently despite a growing urban population the vast majority of the country is still rurally based, close to the farms, where livelihoods are made. With the advent of climate change and the lack of viable mechanization for the topography, increasing efforts are required to enable farmers to grow sustainable crops and avoid the challenges of weather dependency & the market volatility that creates. To see their families grow, to have their communities thrive and to continually contribute towards the greater development of the country, access to healthy food and quality education are key needs and ambitions for the broader population.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Rwanda is the 3rd most densely populated country in Africa, and the 1st if you exclude the island nations of Mauritius and the Maldives. Despite only 25 years of development since the tragic genocide in 1994, the population has rebounded well and continued to grow. 

However, in a small country, increasing land stress on a topography that is incredibly difficult to mechanize and irrigate, has put an immense amount of pressure for small holders to provide ever increasing volumes of food for the country. Further, logistical access for inputs as well as outflow of produce over challenging terrain mean that imports are critical for the country as it is not yet able to feed itself despite having some of the most fertile soils in the region. 

These imports include soybean which is imported en mass for inclusion as the protein ingredient in livestock feed - majority imported from Uganda. Access to climate resilient crops, logistics and post harvest processing/storage capacity and higher value markets have all had positive impacts on the primary agricultural exporting industries of Tea & Coffee, however these do not feed people in the villages, towns and cities. 

The ongoing deployment of government subsidies for small scale production equipment and inputs, the creation of market places and logistics hubs all feed into the current challenges, and the ongoing roll out of these facilities will continue to support the integration of a broader swathe of farmers into formal value chains. Coupled with the successful deployment of agri processing and export market development could increase the value available to the farmers. 

With a projected population of 18.2 million people by 2015 (UNFPA), Rwanda’s food security revolves to a large degree around improved self sufficiency through increased productivity from the millions of small-holder farmers in the country. Although imports will also continue to grow, food security in those supplier countries will similarly become a challenge hence reliance on imported products such as soy, will be come increasingly unreliable. 90% of Rwandans are involved, to a certain degree, in farming practices - improving the productivity of these farmers will be a key challenge to address in the coming decades to enable farmers to leverage the solutions being implemented to address current challenges - market access, logistics etc.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Simply put: Rwandan agriculture needs to be revolutionised to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of existing farming operations, while addressing the need to produce its own livestock protein ingredient for feed. With a growing population and a lack of available agricultural space due to topography of the country, the development of small scale but highly productive farming operations will become increasingly critical in the coming decades in order to increase the overall output per acre in the country, as well as create opportunities to farm on otherwise unproductive land. 

Black Soldier Fly Larvae farming can be done anywhere... it requires hot and humid climatic conditions, organic waste as the input ingredient, a small amount of non chemical water and small land. This is important as a facility can be set up in Kigali city centre, on an unproductive hillside on Kigali's outskirts or in a village. This versatility makes for a fantastic farming opportunity. 

The major output/produce from the facility is protein rich larvae (50-60% of body mass after only 14 days, eating twice its body mass on a daily basis) which is an environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional livestock feed protein inputs such as soybean and fishmeal. And at the end of 14 days of life, the output is high quality protein ready for inclusion in livestock feed and nitrogen rich fertilizer. 

Compared to traditional soy farming, BSF farming yields the same quantity of high quality protein with far less environmental impact at a like cost: 

200 x less water, 10,000 x less land used - and any land including traditionally unproductive land, 0 pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers, 2,000 x less greenhouse gas emissions 

Research has also shown the below positive effects on livestock fed on BSFL of varying concentrations: 

Chicken layers - These chickens laid eggs with higher protein levels and for 12 weeks longer than those fed on traditional chicken feed 

Pigs - Pigs given a supplement of BSFL larvae (including just oil) reached market weight 1 week earlier than those fed on traditional pig feed 

Fish - Fish grew at a like rate to those fed on traditional fish feed 

So then the fertilizer or frass as we call it: This is the element that allows existing farmers to increase their yields through replacing nutrients into the soil of their farmlands - getting more from the same acre of land. And with traditional production techniques for nitrogen rich fertilizer contributing 10% of greenhouse gases annually, the world (and Rwanda) needs an environmentally sustainable alternative which gives the same nett effect - BSFL frass is it. 

Our overall solution concentrates on feeding the future population of Rwanda while preserving the environment and creating an economy to uplift its people through skills and an exportable commodity. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Going back to the beginning, we are Africans who want our people and continent to prosper and we believe that this solution gets us closer to realising this aspiration. 

Feed millers are sourcing their protein inputs locally (not imported from neighbouring countries) from commercial scale BSFL operations and smallholders who are using otherwise unproductive land providing them with a supplementary income. They will also supplement their own livestock with their own BSFL creating healthier stronger animals. 

Due to the reduction in demand for previously conventional animal feed protein (soy and fishmeal) with BSFL as its replacement, virgin forests are not cleared to make way for commercial soybean farming and are living eco systems for all creatures, and the smaller wild fish in the lakes are still swimming in their no longer endangered eco systems. 

The byproduct of organic frass is sold on the open market to replace environmentally damaging chemical dense fertilizer - zero negative environmental impact. Farmers are harvesting effectively and efficiently from their productive crop lands due to healthier soil to contribute to the food in circulation in the country. 

And all the while, landfills are not polluted with organic waste decaying as all organic waste is directed into the circular recycling of the BSFL processing facility. 

In this scenario, the Rwandan people are prospering with enough food on their tables and the Rwandan hillsides thick with organic crops, healthy strong livestock supporting their protein needs, all produce is home grown contributing to the country's economy prospering.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

“There is no such thing as waste, only the right resource in the wrong place” - We want to see waste in the right place.. We would like to create the right place using simple and affordable technology to process waste at source with minimal footprint and operational costs whilst producing significantly improved agricultural inputs for higher productivity, not only reducing land needed for food production but also putting un-productive land to use. Africa is full of resourceful people, and the “food waste” issues faced in the developed world (consumer based waste) rarely occur at the same pace on this continent. That isn't to say food isn’t wasted, that the waste isn’t processed in an inefficient ineffective manner, or that there are additional processes to be added which can create further secondary outputs without compromising the waste processing cycle. 

As the culture around waste is already regenerative our focus is to improve efficiency and effectiveness of that process. Without the means to process waste generated at small or large scales, it becomes a low value commodity, sold or given away to processing through the bigger agricultural engine. There is an incredible nutritional value in food waste, which, if processed correctly, can generate high value outputs for food production, transferring value and creating a more sustainable “whole product lifecycle” focus. This should improve the economic viability of the primary operation, increase the revenue generated within the environment and The BUG Picture is the first project under development is a waste management project that redirects organic waste from landfills, converting this waste into animal feed protein and fertilizer through the digestion of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia Illucens). The ability to tackle both food waste and animal nutrition whilst empowering local agribusinesses offers opportunity for growth and investment. 

Summary of how we will address the Visions of this award: 

Environment = Reduced organic waste in landfills therefore reduced GHG emissions + reduced import of soybean for animal feed with soy farming being responsible for deforestation and other environmental crises + the byproduct of nitrogen rich fertilizer being available to return nutrients to the soil for crop farming with the creation of nitrogen farming contributing up to 10% of annual GHG emissions annually 

Diets = Eating insects in Rwanda is already part of many peoples' diets so it is not a stretch to substitute soy with insects in their animal feed. So what are the evidence based benefits of feeding livestock? When livestocks diets are supplemented with BSFL: Laying chickens will lay eggs with higher protein levels and lay eggs for longer, pigs reach market weight up to week earlier and fish perform at the same level. 

Economics = This is a simple equation of providing communities with a high value exportable commodity (BSFL) that will allow those involved to earn a living and uplift themselves, their families and ultimately their communities out of poverty, through an outgrower model which grows the insects for central processing at The BUG Pictures anchor site. This opportunity will be increased as soybean imports reduce creating more room in the market for BSF farmers to sell their protein. Furthermore, the frass (fertilizer output) will allow for community soils to be rejuvenated with nutrients therefore, increasing productivity. 

Culture = As insects form an existing role in the Rwandan diet, there is no culture shift required in order to move to an insect based diet for livestock. Furthermore, 89% of household practice some form of farming/agriculture therefore the outgrower model will form an easy extension to the populations current way of life. 

Technology = We are working on an ongoing basis to simplify the technology behind the farming of BSF larvae in order to make it transferable to anyone interested in learning, that has accessible and available organic waste, has covered space and access to chemical free water. Because this is as simple as it needs to be in order to farm these insects on a small scale with the support of our larger organisation for the large and expensive (read inaccessible for smallholder farmers) processing machinery. 

This is the big picture. We are also huge believers that the market is so large for this product that we dont have formal competitive within the industry (there is enough room for us all) so want to upskill communities with this technology, sharing all the nitty gritty details in order to set farmers up for success.  

Policy = This is a new industry in Rwanda that is, as yet unregulated with minimal applicable policy. As a champion of BSFL farming in the area, we aim to work closely with the government and policy makers to ensure that this new industry is well supported to allow for expansion. This includes current talks with the Rwanda Development Board. 

Project Aims: 

Reduce the organic waste going into landfills contributing to greenhouse gas emissions 

Create a source of sustainably farmed quality protein to be used in animal feed in an effort to contribute towards the world challenges feeding the ever growing population 

Create a nitrogen rich fertilizer to increase the nutrient levels of soil for crop farming to increase yields to contribute towards the world challenges feeding the ever growing population 

Create an efficient and effective farming operation with minimal water (another finite resource under immense demand pressures) and land requirements to farm protein in an effort to maintain and protect virgin forest lands that would otherwise be destroyed to make space for crops such as soybeans (current prominent protein ingredient in animal feed) 

The story of waste doesn't change over the next 30 years, it remains the same however, the quantities increase in line with population growth and food needs. The promise of waste becoming a valuable commodity which feeds the livestock of tomorrow with its byproduct having regenerative powers of the soil is where we need to concentrate. 

Anchor site: This site in Ruyenzi forms the nucleus for the operation including creating its own outputs of BSFL and fertilizer for sale, as well as being the site for processing machinery to support a dense network of outgrowers, be the source of ongoing research and development into this new technology, the training site for community outgrowers and a single source for outgrowers guaranteed sale of their products (BSFL and fertilizer). 

Outgrower sites: These sites will be sized according to availability of waste streams in the surrounding areas of the Anchor site, handed over on a rent to own basis with The BUG Picture providing the initial capital intensive equipment required to get started, upfront intensive open-door training and  ongoing support through the anchor site to those farmers showing interest and capability to learn. The arrangements will differ depending on the farming executed by the individual farmers for example, livestock farmers will have the opportunity to keep their BSF larvae to feed their own livestock and sell their fertilizer to The BUG Picture. And vice versa for crop farmers. 

We believe in that people are the agents of change and we are investing in people. We believe this today and will believe it in 30 years when the nature of the world and its problems will be exaggerated by a population that has exploded in a world of finite resources. 

We believe that by making a change today using the most powerful change agents (people with aspirations for a better future for themselves and future generations), the tomorrows of the future will have less severe protein challenges for livestock through the feeding of insects, clearer skies and reduced regional environmental impacts through reduced GHG emissions in the area, richer soils for crops on an ongoing basis from the fertiliser, virgin forests and ecosystems left untouched by the growing and sprauling soy farming community, rich and diverse fish and ocean and river life systems which have recovered from over fishing for fishmeal. All thanks to a little insect... The magnificent Black Soldier Fly and its larvae. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Simone Silotti

Bom dia! Laura

Parabéns pela iniciativa!Boa sorte!

Você acredita que o meu projeto Sal da Terra (aqui na plataforma) pode ser útil na sua regiâo?

Photo of Laura Stanford

Thanks for your interest in our region. The East African smallholder experience sounds similar to what you are going through in Brasil. It is definitely something that could be explored in a bit more detail if you would like to drop me an email and I could try to connect you to other more knowing partners in the Agri space in the region. PS. My grandfather grew up in Brasil so very cool to e-meet someone there.

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