My name is Eric and I am a 20-year-old studying business at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business with a focus in operations and logistics. I co-founded an education startup called Graduate and worked as an intern for a tech startup in Detroit. I am also an editorial assistant for the social entrepreneurship website NextBillion.net, where I research analysis on emerging market social enterprises.
I met my Kenyan co-founder, Viraj, while working in the wildlife department at the Quinault Indian Nation. As he was sharing his experiences of growing up visiting a small coastal village in Kenya that has been ravaged economically and ecologically by ocean trawlers (trawling is a destructive form of industrial fishing), we decided that we had to do something to fight back against the trawlers.
A study from Stanford said, “If 50% of the world’s aquaculture industry would stop using fish meal, our oceans would be saved.” Our solution is to produce insects as an alternative protein base for fish farmers in Kenya. Our business is called Kulisha, which is the verb ‘to feed’ in Swahili, the national language of Kenya. That was how Kulisha was born.
While aquaculture in East Africa is booming, many small fish farms do not have access to adequate fish feed; either it is imported and prohibitively expensive, or it is inefficiently mixed on-site with unsustainably caught anchovies. Not only does this mixed feed distort ocean ecosystems, but it doesn’t provide all the nutrients needed for healthy fish growth.
Our idea, Kulisha, will provide a low-cost, high-quality sustainable fish feed made from black soldier fly larvae. We will sell dried insects to these rural fish farmers to replace the anchovies they are using to mix their own. In addition, we’ll produce a nutrient-rich fertilizer as a by-product from raising the insects which will be sold at a low cost to local crop farmers. It is our long term goal to formulate and sell our own feed.
Making animal feed from insects is revolutionary. The key problem with modern day aquaculture is that the current production of fish feed is both expensive and environmentally degrading. We will address both these issues, while stimulating a number of other positive externalities. Commercial insect production is a very novel sector and no companies are doing it in close collaboration with the local community.
We will work with the community to source organic waste such as old food scraps to feed the insects, thereby simultaneously addressing sanitation problems. Our system designs have a relatively low startup cost and use locally sourced materials, thus enabling easy technology transfer and scalability.
Kulisha will be modeled as a for-profit fish feed business. We’ll grow, harvest, and dry black soldier fly larvae; and grind them into a protein-rich meal. We’ll then sell this meal to farmers and eventually incorporate it into fish feed pellets to produce a final product.
We will establish a production facility near Nairobi. This facility will focus on the mass production of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). We are working with black soldier fly researchers to develop this system. BSFL are native to Kenya and are not vectors for disease. Fish fed BSFL feed grew 18%-34% faster than alternative feed and it did not change the end quality or taste of the fish.
We plan to have the system designed by April and built by June. We will take the next six months to scale up production to our goal of 1 metric ton per week. During that time, we will be testing our product. We have set a goal to bring our product to market by March 2017 and distribute through a retailer.
Please help play a role in feeding this revolutionary product into being by commenting your feedback below. Seriously, tell us what you think! We want to hear it!
Blogpost, video and illustration submitted by Eric Katz (USA) – erickatz(at)umich.edu
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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