Innovation That Matters

The Grubin | Photo source Grubin

Japanese students use flies to recycle food

Food & Drink

A group of Japanese students are developing a system that uses fly larvae to turn food waste into food for animals

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Spotted: A group of University of Tokyo students have developed a new method for recycling food waste. The students were inspired by a trip to Phenom Penh, where they noticed a large amount of garbage rotting by the roadside. This waste is not only unsightly but can pose health risks. To solve this, the students came up with the idea of Grubin, a waste bin filled with larvae that will eat such organic waste.

The students developed a plastic bin filled with larvae of the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens. The idea is that the larvae will eat any organic waste thrown into the bin. Once the larvae are fully grown, they are collected from a special compartment inside the bin and then dried and ground into pellets, to be used as a sustainable source of animal feed for fish or chicken. 

The students began a public crowdfunding campaign and participated in the 2017 Hult Prize, an international social entrepreneurship competition for students. The following year, the group won the Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Award and received a 10 million-yen (€84239.05) prize. This award provided seed funding to the students, who formed the Grubin project to bring their idea into commercial reality. 

The money raised has financed the building and the designing of prototypes. The team is also working with local mentors in Cambodia, on ways to attract wild adult flies naturally and on how to ensure the larvae can grow healthily in the bins. Student and Grubin team member, Ryo Kawamoto, described the group’s next steps as, “focused on proving we can repeatedly take flies from egg to finished food product in Tokyo so that we can better anticipate the extra challenges in Cambodia.”

The Grubin project joins a host of recent innovations aiming to better manage food waste. These range from repurposing food waste as auto parts, to biogas generators designed for home use.

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