Black soldier fly farming. Nicholas Ndekei, a youthful farmer, has carved out a livelihood from what some might find unappealing. His innovative approach addresses the protein deficit affordably and sustainably through rearing the Black Soldier Fly (BSF). This insect has gained recognition for its role in tackling food waste issues and producing fertilizer.

Nicholas Ndekei’s passion for flies extends specifically to the Black Soldier Fly (BSF). He speaks about them with enthusiasm bordering on reverence, a stark contrast to his earlier days as a typical football-loving child, cheering for Manchester United.

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His journey into BSF farming began in 2017 when he partnered with Brian Amenya after meeting at Ridgeways Baptist Church. Their entrepreneurial attempts initially focused on cabbage farming and chili pepper exporting, both short-lived ventures. Nicholas concurrently pursued higher education in Economics and Finance at the United States International University in Kenya, where his interest in insects was sparked by discussions with Dr. Paul Wachana, his Economics professor.

Black soldier fly

Dr. Wachana’s mention of cricket farming led Nicholas to explore insect-based ventures further. This pursuit led him to Dr. Chrysantus Tanga, a research scientist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), who introduced him to BSF farming under the INSFEED program.

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In 2019, Nicholas and Brian underwent training at ICIPE through the Rockefeller Foundation’s youth program, ‘Y-Minds Connect,’ which focused on BSF rearing and its applications in waste management and fertilizer production. Inspired by this experience, Nicholas and Brian founded Zihanga Limited in November 2020, marking a significant turning point in their lives.

Black soldier fly farming at Zihanga Farm

At Zihanga Limited, they rear BSF using organic waste sourced from local markets and pig slaughterhouses, producing larvae that mature through various instar stages to become nutrient-rich pupae and adult flies. The operation recycles 20 tonnes of organic waste weekly, yielding 9 tonnes of Zihanga Insect Frass, a high-quality fertilizer tested and approved by the University of Nairobi.

Beyond fertilizer production, Nicholas and Brian sell dried BSF as animal feed, catering primarily to pig and chicken farmers in the region. Their efforts not only address agricultural challenges but also promote a circular economy by integrating chicken farming with BSF rearing.

The business’s success has been bolstered by support from ICIPE, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Safaricom’s #MyLittleBigThing initiative, where they earned recognition for their innovative approach to insect-based fertilizers and bio-fuels.

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Looking ahead, Nicholas envisions expanding their product line to include BSF chitin for soil health and insect oil for animal feed and cosmetics. Their journey exemplifies the growing acceptance of insect meal-based animal feed in Kenya and neighboring countries, offering a sustainable solution amidst economic uncertainties for farmers.