Australian vertical farm employs insects to combat food waste

The team at Melbourne startup Bardee has a deep appreciation for the power of insects, and even snacks on them in the office. “We have those nut dispensers, where you turn it and a snack falls out. We have nuts and dried fruit, and we also have fried insect larvae with all sorts of different herbs and spices,” said co-founder and chief executive Phoebe Gardner.

In a production facility in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine North, Ms. Gardner and her partner and Bardee co-founder Alex Arnold are the custodians of about 1 billion Black Soldier Flies. These fly larvae are not snacks for staff at this stage. Instead, they work hard in a vertical farming system to transform food waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer and pet products.

Ms. Gardner, a trained architect, and Mr. Arnold, an entomologist, have been toying with business ideas to tackle the climate crisis and global food waste for years. The technology they’ve developed can transform waste from supermarkets and food manufacturers into new products, thanks to the Black Soldier Fly army.

“The insects are so phenomenal. Their natural environment is cleaning up the forest floor and recycling it into new nutrients,” Ms. Gardner said.

“The insects actually move around like a pack, they go around collectively and eat everything. This [also] prevents methane production, so the only emissions emitted through Bardee’s system are water evaporation and the C02 from the insect’s respiration, which is not very much.”

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