How Maggots Could Lead to More Sustainable Agriculture

iStock
iStock

A decade ago, two brothers started recycling food waste into feed for animals by letting the food chain run its natural course. In other words—they got into the maggot business. Now their South Africa-based company, AgriProtein, is planning to expand its fly farms into an international network, CNN Money reports.

Jason and David Drew founded their company in 2008 with the goal of cultivating fly larvae (a.k.a. maggots) as an eco-friendly protein source. Today, many farmed animals, such as fish and chicken, are fed fish meal: a type of feed made from dried and ground-up fish. Fish are a cheap protein source, but the high demand for animal feed has led to them being harvested at an unsustainable rate.

AgriProtein's solution to the feed industry's sustainability problem involves tapping into a resource that can be found wherever there's food waste. To create its products, the company's two fly factories in Cape Town and Durban each take in 276 tons of food waste every day. The flies lay 340 million eggs on the waste daily, and those eggs hatch into the maggots used to make the feed.

Theoretically, the process could have wide-reaching effects at every stage of the agriculture industry: Human-generated food waste that would otherwise rot in a landfill is used to nourish the protein, which is then used to feed livestock, which ends up as food for humans.

The Drew brothers' "nutrient recycling" concept attracted research funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and today AgriProtein is valued at more than $200 million. The fly farms are limited to South Africa for now, but the company plans to open 100 factories in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. If their efforts are successful, the brothers could inspire other insect farmers to embrace the maggot revolution.

[h/t CNN Money]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail

ESA
ESA

It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]