Cleaning Africa´s cities by feeding Africa´s increasing protein demand.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
We are an interdisciplinary team of locals and internationals that met in Kampala through a shared passion for sustainable entrepreneurship to have a positive impact on society and existing food systems. We all live, work and conduct research in Uganda, and thereby recognized the potential, but also the challenges this wonderful place has. Therefore, we decided to work on the solution proposed in this application.
Close ties with family and friends in Kampala and Uganda and roots in agriculture make this project an affair of the heart for each of us.
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.
Areal image showing Kampala and its surroundings (mainly Wakiso District). This is the area the project is mainly focussing on.
Satellite image of Uganda, to indicate the location of Kampala.
The population of Uganda is growing rapidly and has one of the highest birth rates in the world. More than 80% of Ugandans live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture. These factors and a growing urban middle class that can afford to include more meat in its diet are leading to extremely high demand for animal products.
On the other hand, youth unemployment reaches a staggering 84%, attracting more and more people to the cities in search of work and a better life. Cities like Kampala are overstrained by the sheer influx of people, which leads to the formation of informal settlements. Existing infrastructures are overloaded and there is no functioning waste management system in place, resulting in conditions that are hazardous to health and the environment.
Also in (peri-) urban areas, agricultural food production plays an important role as a source of income and in terms of food supply for the citizens of Kampala. However, as Uganda is a landlocked country, access to suitable agricultural inputs such as feed and fertilizers is lacking and the quality is often extremely poor. These factors explain why agricultural productivity in Uganda is generally very low.
While Lake Victoria fisheries continue to make an important contribution to feeding people, fish stocks are declining rapidly due to overfishing, threatening the countries' food security.
As hopeless as this situation may seem, the Ugandan youth has a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of optimism and motivation to take things into their own hands and improve the situation. We currently employ 8 local youths in our waste-to-feed processing plant and the proactivity and positive energy of this team clearly prove to us that sustainable social and economic change is possible from within Ugandan society.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Africa is the continent with the fastest-growing population in the world. The consequences are high rates of urbanization and an insatiable demand for food, especially for animal products. However, farmers often lack access to appropriate feed for their livestock, and fertilizer to increase their crop production.
Another serious implication of the rapid population growth is, that the production of waste is increasing drastically. With no functioning waste management strategy in place, cities such as Kampala, Uganda, are literally drowning in waste. The effects are severe, as the waste often remains within the communities where it clogs the sewage systems and poses a health hazard by providing breeding ground for pathogens and disease vectors. Furthermore, the untreated waste emits vast amounts of greenhouse gases which are extremely harmful to the environment.
By 2050, Kampala's population is expected to double, hitting 12 Million inhabitants which will exacerbate these problems to the extreme. Kampala's waste production is expected to threefold and the already overburdened and unsustainable food-systems will hardly be able to cope with the exploding demand for food, in particular, animal products. All these problems will be intensified by the effects of climate change, that are expected to hit emerging countries such as Uganda the worst.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
Our solution addresses all of the aforementioned challenges. More than 80% of the waste generated in Kampala is organic waste and we feed this organic waste to larvae of the Black Soldier Fly. While feeding on it, the insect larvae reduce its mass by 70% within only 10 days. After this rearing period, the larvae which are rich in protein and fat are harvested and further processed. The resulting products are a valuable and sustainable protein feed for animal nutrition and rich insect fat that is used as feed additive or for soap production. Through this process, the organic waste is turned into a nutrient-rich compost which is used as an effective and affordable fertilizer.
Thereby, we offer Ugandan and East African farmers a high-quality source of protein feed, that is affordable and proven to improve the health and quality of production animals; as well as organic fertilizer that increases agricultural productivity. Compared to conventional waste-processing and agricultural-production methods, our system decreases the emission of greenhouse gases by 70%. Furthermore, we create meaningful jobs for Uganda’s youth along a sustainable and fully circular value chain.
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.
We envision Kampala as a city where organic-waste becomes a resource full of nutrients that can be recovered through a fully circular food system. In this way, the city provides a healthy environment for its citizens, while healthy and nutritious food is provided by feeding livestock with sustainably produced insect protein and growing plants that are fertilized with compost obtained from organic waste digested by insect larvae. This sustainable and fully circular value chain provides hundreds of meaningful jobs for local people with all qualifications and educational backgrounds.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Repairing the existing food systems by closing the nutrient gap.
1,200 tonnes of organic waste are generated in Kampala every day. At the moment, ca. 40% of this waste is collected and dumped at the Kiteezi landfill, located outside of Kampala. The rest remains within the cities and the communities, causing severy problems regarding hygiene, public health, and sanitation. This organic waste and its nutrients were taken from the fields before, but are not reintroduced into the food cycle. Instead, its greenhouse gas emissions contribute significantly to climate change, and it´s leakage pollutes the drinking water. At the same time, Ugandan farmers struggle with low livestock and crop-productivity due to a lack of accessible fertilizer and feed, which often is sourced in an unsustainable way and needs to be imported from abroad.
Our vision is to close this nutrient gap by creating a fully circular food system using insect technology. In this way, instead of importing fertilizer from Europe and soya from Latin America to Uganda, the nutrients contained in the organic waste are recovered in the form of insect-protein, insect fat, and organic fertilizer. These valuable, yet affordable agricultural inputs will boost the local production of crops and livestock products while saving 70% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional waste-processing and food-production methods. This will significantly improve the nutritional status of the Ugandan population by making the inclusion of healthy eggs, dairy products, and meat in the diet more affordable compared to the predominantly one-sided diet based mainly on rice, maize meal, and beans. Since 80% of the Ugandan population works in agriculture for a living, a large part of the local population will benefit from such a circular food system, which creates added value in Uganda.
The technology that will facilitate closing the nutrient gap in this food system, is tailored to the unique environmental and social conditions in Uganda. As work-force is affordable here, and jobs are desperately needed, we developed a system that heavily relies on the input of manual labor, while high-tech components are employed to increase the system's production efficiency rather than replacing human labor.
Our waste-to-feed process needs to cater for all stages in the life cycle of the Black Soldier Fly (eggs -> larvae -> pupae -> adult flies -> eggs). The climatic conditions in Uganda are quite favorable for Black Soldier Flies, which are tropical insects. Therefore, no additional heating for the rearing of the larvae is required. However, through employing sensor technology in a smart way, we make sure that all the other rearing conditions are perfect for the larvae to grow, e.g. we use moisture sensors to monitor the moisture content of the rearing substrate of the larvae, and identify the optimal moment to harvest the larvae.
The eggs of the Black Soldier Fly, on the other hand, are quite sensitive, which is why we developed a breeding unit inside an insulated container, where the climate conditions are controlled and gas-concentrations are monitored. This allows us to precisely control the temperature and humidity that the insect-eggs are exposed to, with minimal energy input. Thereby, we create an environment for the fragile eggs and newly hatched larvae, which ensures highly efficient production and reduces the mortality of the eggs by up to 50%.
This technology can be replicated easily. Since organic waste is an infinite source that is not expected to dry up any time soon, this system is highly scalable and we imagine it will be implemented in all major cities in East Africa. Our vision is that this circular solution will create a whole new industry that will create thousands of meaningful local jobs along a sustainable value chain, from production assistants to plant managers.
After all, we know that the social acceptance of our insect-derived feed is by no means an obstacle. In Uganda's poultry production, for example, feed accounts for 70 to 80% of total production costs. Local farmers appreciate not only the cost savings from affordable and healthy insect-derived feed but also the fact that it is the most natural way of feeding their chickens. Farmers know that when a local free-range chicken digs for food in the ground, it does not find fish protein but insects. This is supported by the 1.5 tonnes of insect larvae that we have already supplied to local farmers as poultry feed. We envision that sustainably produced insect-derived feed will become the main source of feed protein in East Africa.
As this technology aims to address pressing issues identified by the local population as real problems, we believe it can revolutionize the existing unsustainable food system from within the Ugandan society.