Dr. Jeffrey Tomberlin will present a workshop on the black soldier fly and their use in animal feed from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday at the Aupuni Conference Center in downtown Hilo. The event, which is made possible by the County of Hawaii and www.compostmania.com, is free and open to the public.
Tomberlin, an entomologist at Texas A&M University System, has dedicated years to researching the ecology and biology of flies related to the recycling of organic matter. His research lead him to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he studied for two years as part of his Ph.D. program.
Today, this research has brought him to the Big Island to help entrepreneur Robert Olivier develop a sustainable insect-based chicken feed.
The signature decomposer being studied is the juvenile form the Hermetia illucens, a harmless, native arthropod commonly referred to as the black soldier fly.
According to Olivier, 1 square foot of black soldier flies can produce as much protein as one-tenth of an acre of soybeans. Currently, Olivier is producing hundreds of pounds of larvae a week for use in insect-based animal feed.
Tomberlin has written more than 15 publications on the black soldier fly.
“My research has always focused on the role of insects in recycling nutrients,” Tomberlin said. “The work with the black soldier fly allowed me to continue research in this area while developing technology to benefit society. Specifically, this work would allow me to potentially solve problems with human and animal wastes while providing protein by-products that could be used to feed animals.”