Flies are natural part of any livestock operation, and fill an important ecological niche. By eating manure and other waste products, the larvae of these species cycle otherwise inaccessible nutrients back into the food chain. Fly larvae have demonstrated potential in aquaculture feeds as a sustainable source of high-quality protein. Capturing fly larvae would therefore be a way of harnessing on-farm productivity that is currently going to waste.
This project will design and test a device that would allow dairy farmers to easily collect the fly larvae already present in their manure pits. In addition to helping to control fly populations without the use of pesticides, this device would harness a novel commodity that has significant potential to become a valuable feed ingredient in the near future.
The proposed device itself is simple, and relies on the natural population of flies and behavior of the larvae. When larvae in the manure pit are fully grown, they will instinctively search for a dry, dark place to pupate (the stage before becoming an adult fly). In the manure pit, this means they climb the wall. By putting a device with a curved surface along the wall of the pit and a collection tray underneath it, we will be able to harvest large amounts of larvae with relatively little effort. The larvae will then be given to a collaborator at Cornell who will evaluate their nutritional quality and process them into fish feed as a proof of concept.
We will work with A. Fay Benson at Cornell Cooperative Extension and Patrick Barry at our local NRCS office to spread our results to other farmers via word of mouth and a workshop presentation at Cornell. In addition, we will write an article to submit to Country Folks or Farmshine – both publications that are widely read by dairy farmers in this area. Finally, we can host an open-farm event for farmers to see our device in action. A summary of what we did and the design of our device will also be posted on our website (http://www.jerrydellfarm.com/).
Project objectives from proposal:
This project’s objective is to make a device that will let dairy farmers easily collect large amounts of housefly larvae from their existing manure pits. Insect larvae are a new agricultural crop with lots of promising characteristics. Hopefully this project will demonstrate a new business opportunity for dairy farmers in the future. Farmers could buy or build one of our devices to collect fly larvae from their manure pits and then sell the larvae to a company or co-operative that processes them into feed ingredients.
Our collaborators at Cornell say that housefly larvae raised on manure compares favorably to fishmeal in their experiments. Fishmeal currently sells for more than $1300/ton, so we could be unlocking a high-value crop of the future already growing on dairy farms. After this study, we will hopefully be able to estimate how much of that crop it is possible to harvest using a simple, low-cost, low-effort system and the natural population of flies. Since our device will only be covering a small amount of the wall of the manure pit, whatever amount we are able to collect in a summer will be a small fraction of the potential harvest from a whole pit.