Making money from maggots in Tanzania

The black soldier fly effectively converts organic waste in proteins. These proteins are an excellent source for animal feed. The Tanzanian entrepreneur Matthew Haden realized this and has established a succeful profitable company based on this concept. Please click here to read the Dutch article.

circulaire landbouw
The black soldier fly

Making profit out of waste

Dar es Salaam is abuzz with opportunity. Population wise, it is ranked as one of the top ten fastest growing cities in the world. Everywhere you look buildings are coming up, the city’s limits are expanding and people are flooding in. From 2012 until now, Dar went from zero KFCs or Pizza Huts to 8, an interesting indicator of the growing middle class. Processing the waste of this rapidly growing city is a major challenge. The burning of household waste is a hazard to both environment and health but common practice in Dar es Salaam. On the other hand, the country suffers from a lack of inputs to supply the growing demand for animal proteins.

Separate and Process
To overcome some of these challenges, Matthew Haden started ‘the Recycler’ in 2014. This company offers waste management and recycling for waste streams in Tanzania. Specialized in working with large companies, the Recycler helps to separate recyclable waste and process this for trade on domestic and international markets. They also set up recycling collection points throughout the city and began working with informal collection networks. By making a profit from waste, the company now has over 30 staff members and over 50 clients.

“ We wanted to get our hands on as much waste as possible and divert it from the landfill. This strategy helped us see the market potential for all waste. While we found recycling markets for glass, metal, paper and some types of plastic, we realized that the vast majority of waste that was still going to landfill was organic waste. We looked into both biogas and composting projects. Biogas looked great, but we needed someone to purchase the electricity at a premium. Compost required lots of land and we were not convinced it would ever make money without subsidies. This is how we started to look at maggots as a circular solution for food waste and food production.”  Matthew Haden


The Black soldier Fly
The Hermetia illucens or Black soldier fly (BSF), an insect native to Tanzania, has a spectacular ability to convert waste into protein and is renowned for easy handling. The fly can consume as much as 70% of its own body weight in waste every day. For every kilogram of organic waste that it consumes, nearly 50 grams of protein are produced that can act as a feed supplement for commercial livestock such as poultry or fish. Moreover, the leftover product which remains after the decomposition process can be used as a high nitrogen organic fertilizer.

This protein source for chicken and fish is highly needed in Tanzania. Producing meat or fish takes a lot of inputs. For instance, producing 1 kg of farmed fish in aquaculture systems can require between 1-8 kilograms of feed. The current fish feed is made up almost entirely of other fish, burdening the already overfished oceans. Raising chickens is equally challenging at the moment. Chickens require double the amount of grain compared to the meat they produce and currently nearly 40% of all grain produced in the world is fed to animals.

Source for Animal Feed

The source of protein for existing chicken feeds comes from soybeans or fishmeal. In Tanzania, most soy is imported at a high cost and most locally produced fishmeal is of low quality and very expensive. The feed challenges in the poultry sector are also highlighted in a recent report by the World Bank, on which more information can be found through this link. (

Media reports continually foretell shortages of chickens and fish. The Tanzania Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries recently declared that Tanzania faces a deficit of 480,886 tonnes of fish annually. As is clear from the above, there is a clear business case for protein production from organic waste of the food industry for the poultry and aquaculture sector. There is a continuous demand for fish and chicken, but the production costs at the moment are very high, amongst others due to the expenses related to feeds.

“ At Recycler, we believe that we have a solution that can deal with these problems with a more sustainable and cost-effective approach. And it all comes down to a fly.” Matthew Haden

From shed to maggot Factory

Starting the project in a small shed, Matthew and his partners began attempting to breed the Black Soldier Flies, produce animal feed and turn the production cycle into a scalable model.

Beeld: ©.

After two years, they raised enough funding to move into a large warehouse and open the first maggot factory in the country. However, it took them a while to successfully start their breeding program at the larger location.

“For nine months, the flies were not having enough sex and we couldn’t figure out why! After a few tweaks, our breeding rates started to fly up and we began to test the waste treatment and post-processing of the larvae.”

Now operating just over a year in the factory, they are taking in tons of waste, producing millions of maggots in the breeding facility as well as hundreds of kilograms of dried protein product and fertilizer every month. The Recycler hopes to break-even in June and push production up to 1 ton of dried larvae per day by 2019. They are looking for partners to scale to other countries in the region.

“We are developing a low cost, labour intensive maggot factory for Africa. We are hoping to paste this model in 4 other countries in East Africa by the start of 2019, and will continue to look for more partners in other countries across the continent. We believe our innovation will bring down the costs of essential proteins for chicken and fish farmers as well as reducing waste to landfills in Africa.”

Opportunities Dutch business sector
It is clear that there is money to be made by seperating waste and re-using it in cities. This is of course not the only solution for organic waste. Circular Entrepreneurship offers many opportunities for the Dutch Business Sector. The company of Matthew Haden demonstrates that the ambition to use leftovers in an innovative way can lead to success. Additionally, Wageneningen University and Research have published a report on business opportunities for insects in animal feed in Eastern Africa, read the full report here.

The Tanzanian economy is growing and offers chances for entrepreneurs to come with new (circular) solutions. For more information on the work of the Recycler, please see their website. Do you also have an innovative solution and would you like to share your story or do you have questions? Send an email to