The flies grow in a confined space where their larvae feed on copious organic waste. Bucketfuls of worms are taken out before they grow into flies. Only some remain to continue the cycle.
What left a lasting impression on the visitor, more than the sight of such a unit, was the smell. “It’s just as well that it has become customary to wear a covid mask,” quips Prasanna Manogaran, founder and CEO of Aqgromalin, a Chennai-based startup that wants to help farmers diversify.
The visit to the fly farm led to Aqgromalin setting up a similar unit in Chennai for research and development. The startup is collaborating with a European insect feed company to explore scaling this up in India, where the tropical climate is ideal for these flies. “Two-thirds of the cost of aquaculture is the feed, most of which is imported,” points out Manogaran.
While insect farming is at an experimental stage, the startup has made headway with its main thesis, which is to enable farmers to diversify into animal products that have a global demand but underdeveloped supply from India. These include quail, duck, various kinds of fish and even delectable mud crabs.
A lion’s share
Shrimp accounts for the lion’s share of aquaculture export from India and an ecosystem of hatcheries, technology and market linkages has grown around it. Far less developed is the farming of other gourmet creatures like mud crabs that are highly valued in Japan, Europe