A farm in China has found an ingenious way to manage food waste and keep livestock well fed using cockroaches.
Four industrial-size hangars are packed with rows of shelves and an elaborate pipe system that pumps food waste collected from restaurants onto the shelves for the roaches to eat.
The hangars are kept in perfect condition for cockroaches – dark, warm and filled with food waste – and contained by a moat filled with hungry fish. The sprawling fields around the cockroach farm already have pigs, ducks, chickens and goats that are feeding on the nutrient-rich cockroach mix.
Each of the 60 small rooms contains 20 million cockroaches each. That’s over one billion cockroaches, that every day eat 50 tonnes of kitchen waste.
Benefiting the ecological cycle
What started as an experiment to deal with food waste has blossomed into a commercial operation. Head of the project, Li Yanrong, hopes it will be profitable in the long term.
“If we can farm cockroaches on a large scale, we can provide protein that benefits the entire ecological cycle,” says the head of the project, Li Yanrong.
“We can replace animal feeds filled with antibiotics and instead supply organic feed, which is good for the animals and the ground soil.”
Largely seen as a pest to be eradicated elsewhere, cockroaches are lucrative money-earners for an estimated 100 cockroach farmers across China.
The Good Doctor Pharmaceutical Group in Chengdu, grinds up billions of roaches each year for use in Chinese medicine, going by their scientific name Periplaneta Americana in various types of Chinese medicine and some medical cosmetics.
They are said to be mainly useful in helping heal scars, while some people eat or drink crushed cockroach medicines that, according to the manufacturers at least, can help reduce the size of tumours.
Food waste in Australia
The farming process of giving food waste to cockroaches to feed animals for human consumption could help.