Last updated on December 15th, 2023 at 06:03 pm
In a small warehouse in the outskirts of Jakarta, Muhammad Helmi is busy feeding his hungry guests: thousands of maggots devouring a mountain of food waste.
Helmi, 25, is the founder of Magalarva, a start-up that uses black soldier fly larvae to convert organic waste into animal feed, fertilizer and biofuel.
He says his innovative solution can help tackle Indonesia’s massive food waste problem, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.
According to a recent report by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), Indonesia threw away 23 to 48 million tons of food waste annually from 2000 to 2019, equivalent to 115 to 184 kilograms per capita per year.
The report also found that food waste resulted in a loss of approximately Rp 213 trillion to Rp 551 trillion per year, equivalent to 4 to 5 percent of Indonesia’s GDP.
Helmi, who has a background in biotechnology, says he was inspired by his childhood fascination with insects and his desire to create a positive impact on society.
“I always liked insects since I was little. I used to collect them and observe their behavior. I also wanted to do something that can solve a real problem in Indonesia, especially related to waste management and food security,” he tells The Context News.
He started Magalarva in 2019 with his co-founder, Andi Yudha, after winning a grant from the Indonesian government. They set up a pilot plant in Bogor, West Java, where they experimented with different methods of breeding and processing the larvae.
They soon realized that the black soldier fly, a harmless insect that does not transmit diseases, was the ideal candidate for their project.
“The black soldier fly has a very high reproduction rate and a very high conversion rate. They can eat almost any kind of organic waste, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy products, and even paper and cardboard.”