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[CAPE TOWN] The South Africa based business AgriProtein, which recently won the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa for using maggots to make protein-rich animal feed, is expanding production.
AgriProtein, comprising researchers and entrepreneurs, is currently isolating enzymes produced naturally by fly larvae and testing them in a laboratory for their anti-bacterial properties. The end result could be an innovative medical disinfectant.
"We know what happens in nature; we are trying to isolate this anti-bacterial agent and see how and if we can use it. We are a long way from understanding the outcomes, commercial viability or impact," Jason Drew, a director of AgriProtein, tells SciDev.Net.
Their work on animal feeds is much further advanced. AgriProtein has increased production to approximately 3,000 tonnes per month for the South African market, from around 24.5 tonnes per month. It will be starting large-scale production later this year, and plans to open production plants elsewhere in Africa to tap the global market for animal feed — worth more than US$20 billion.
"We have also developed a small-scale kit for rural small-scale farmers. Within the next 12 months we will have licensed our technology to other parts of Africa and the world," Drew says.
AgriProtein collects organic waste and feeds it to flies that, in turn, produce larvae that are ground into protein — providing a sustainable, natural livestock feed.
Drew says the business is looking at additional uses for the feeds, for example for lactating cows and breeding sows.
"Early research indicates that our proteins will have significant impact for these additional forms of livestock farming," he says.
In May, AgriProtein won the US$100,000 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa for its feeds. The company, established five years ago, beat more than 900 applications from 45 countries for the prestigious prize, founded by the African Innovation Foundation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to build Africa's capacity by investing in local entrepreneurship.
"The recognition will help our development into Africa as well as increasing our credibility with international partners who are seeking to license our technology," says Drew.
The idea was triggered by concern over how to provide industrial agriculture with an alternative to fishmeal, since global fish stocks are increasingly depleted.
François Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business, says AgriProtein's innovation is an example "of the game-changing African ideas" that continue to harness natural resources profitably and sustainably.
Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, co-founder of the African Innovation Foundation, says: "The Innovation Prize for Africa winners showcase African solutions to African challenges.
"It is time for private sector leaders, donors and governments to work together to invest in practical solutions that will sustain Africa's economic growth."
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.