When it comes to resolving a big global food problem, a new breed of farmers and their financial backers are thinking small.
Work on the world's largest fly farm has begun in South Africa after the European firm behind the project won much-needed funding from investors, propelling the use of insects as livestock feed beyond academic theory to a commercial venture.
The project near Cape Town was conceived by a group of scientists and environmentalists racing to find protein alternatives as rising production of livestock feed such as soy gobbles up more and more valuable agricultural land.
The farm, being built by Gibraltar-based AgriProtein, will house 8.5 billion of flies that will produce tons of protein-rich larvae as they feed on organic waste. The tallest barrier to such startups has been the availability of capital, with potential investors deterred by legislative hurdles.
But given the prospect of getting hundreds of times more protein feedstock from a single hectare of land compared to traditional sources, political objections are starting to come down. The success of AgriProtein in securing $11 million in funds, while small, is a sign investors are warming to the idea that insects could be big business in the years ahead.
Reporting by Colin Packham, REUTERS.