The challenge

Poor nutrition is a persistent problem in low and middle income countries, caused in part by the lack of good quality protein in animal and human diets. Also, rural communities face animal feed shortages, and food crops struggle to grow in poor quality soil.

Our approach

Researchers at York, in collaboration with UK and international partners, are looking to ease these problems by developing an innovative technology for the mass rearing of black soldier fly larvae, which can be used as animal feed. The technology could offer many benefits:

  • The larvae would provide a sustainable source of high quality protein for animals such as pigs, chickens and fish
  • ‚ÄčThe larvae would be grown on unwanted crop residues such as rice straw. These are typically burnt, producing air pollutants such as ozone and black carbon particulates. By reducing burning the new technology would improve air quality and reduce respiratory illness
  • Once the larvae are harvested the remaining crop residues could be used as a soil conditioner
  • Producing larvae could provide farmers with a more sustainable income source.

Click the infographic below to see how our approach would move crop residues from being a source of problems to a source of livelihood opportunities and how people would benefit.

Research in this area at York is led by Professor Neil Bruce from the Department of Biology.

"The concept is simple. Unwanted crop residues would be used as a source of food for larvae, which themselves become feedstock for pigs, chickens and fish."

Neil BruceProfessor of Biotechnology and academic lead


Researchers from universities and organisations from the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, Benin, Uganda and Tanzania gathered at icipe, Nairobi, to discuss the challenge and solutions

Our approach was co-designed with a diverse interdisciplinary, international group of partners from organisations and universities including:

  • Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International
  • Durham University
  • Fera
  • icipe
  • Indonesian Research Institute for Biotechnology and Bioindustry
  • Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Bénin
  • International Livestock Research Institute
  • Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
  • Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization
  • Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute
  • Kenyatta University
  • Makerere University
  • National Fisheries Resources Research Institute
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Sokoine University of Agriculture
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Technology, Malaysia

Researchers from York's departments of Biology and Chemistry, and Centre for Health Economics are also involved in the group.

Read more about our collaborators.


April 2018 - York workshop

UK collaborators met for a workshop focused on developing impactful approaches to tackling the challenge.

March 2018 - Nairobi workshop

Collaborators from the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, Benin, Uganda and Tanzania gathered at icipe, Nairobi, to share knowledge and build partnerships. The workshop also provided an opportunity for researchers gain a greater understanding of the local context which would maximise the relevance of the research.