EcoSystem uses fly larva to make MAGFUEL

By Erin Voegele | March 09, 2009
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Web exclusive posted March 20, 2009, at 1:38 p.m. CST

EcoSystem Corp. is working to develop a bioreactor technology that utilizes black soldier fly larva to convert food scrap waste into natural oils, which can be used as a feedstock for biodiesel production and specialty chemical applications. The natural oil that is produced has been trademarked by the company as MAGFUEL.

The larva would be raised in contained bioconversion facilities which would be located in close proximity to major sources of food scrap waste, said Glen Courtright, EcoSystem's president and chief executive officer. Courtright said the company envisions setting up a series of these facilities that are scaled to match each market's available feedstock output. Potential feedstock suppliers could include large-scale industrial food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants and caterers, slaughter houses, and facilities producing agricultural waste.

The larva housed in the bioconversion facilities would consume food waste, and be processed to extract their naturally produced oil, or MAGFUEL. The company has estimated that the dry weight of the larva consists of approximately 42 percent protein and 35 percent natural oils. When running at full capacity, it's estimated the technology could yield up to 190,000 gallons of crude natural oils per acre of bioreactor surface area each year. In comparison, soybeans yield an average of 40 gallons of oil per acre annually. The company also estimated the technology could be deployed at a cost of less than $100 per square foot.

Courtright said the oil would be extracted from the larva using existing rendering technology, which would produce two main products � lipids and a high protein product suitable for use as an aquaculture feed. In addition, the fly larva would produce castings at the bioconversion facility that can be used to fertilize soil. The technology produces virtually no waste products.

According to data published by the USDA Economic Research Service in 2007, approximately 27 percent of the 356 billion pounds of edible food available for human consumption in the U.S. was lost during farm, processing, and retail stages of marketing. EcoSystem estimated that 25 percent of the volume of retail, restaurant, and industrial-generated food waste could be converted into black soldier fly larva using this technology. Based upon information the company sourced from U.S. 2010 Census data, up to 100 MMgy of MAGFUEL could be produced and sold to U.S. biodiesel producers using this technology.

EcoSystem intends to market the trademarked MAGFUEL into the existing biodiesel industry as a blending agent for lower grade biodiesel feedstocks, such as white grease, tallow and yellow grease. According to Courtright, the company is currently working to develop a pilot facility, which is expected to begin operations later this year.
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