Facility near Calgary to breed nutty-tasting flies as animal feed

The 170,000 square-foot insect plant will be based in Balzac, just north of Calgary's city limits.

The 'voracious eaters' will be fed preconsumer food scraps at plant in Balzac

The farm will produce black soldier flies, which are rich in protein and fat. (Enterra Feed Corporation)

A southern Alberta hamlet is about to become home to a giant farm that breeds nutty-tasting flies.

The 170,000 square-foot insect plant will be based in Balzac, just north of Calgary's city limits, and will produce "thousands of tonnes" of a bug called the "black soldier fly."

For now, the company, Enterra Feed Corporation, is selling its insects as feed for chickens, fish and pets.

But they're watching a worldwide trend closely: people eating insects for protein.

"We would love to be able to feed our insects directly to people," operations and marketing manager Victoria Leung told the Calgary Eyeopener. "We don't think it's that far-fetched, but for now we're sticking to animal feed in North America."

However, she said, they have a slightly nutty taste.

Billions of bugs coming to Balzac

5 years ago
Duration 0:30
A new insect farm plans to open by end of 2018 in the Alberta hamlet.

The company is based in Langley, B.C., but struggled to find any space available in the Lower Mainland when it wanted to expand.

Balzac is conveniently located by the Calgary International Airport, has enough people to produce food waste to feed the bugs, and also potential workers to hire and train, she said.

The company will be looking in particular for labourers to mix feed, and crane technicians to move flats of larvae.

Larvae are raised on food waste, like vegetable and food scraps. (Enterra Feed Corporation)

Black soldier flies are native to North America but rare in Alberta, she said, as they prefer more humid climates. They're unique because they don't bite or sting.

'Voracious eaters'

The insect actually doesn't feed at all as an adult. It only eats as a larvae, when it stocks up on nutrients it'll use throughout its life cycle.

"When they first hatch, they're microscopic," Leung said. "In about three weeks they grow about one million per cent their size.... That's because they're voracious eaters."

The factory will ship preconsumer food scraps to the plant and dump them on the floor. The waste is then mixed and distributed to hundreds of flats containing larvae.

"When we harvest them ... they're just full of protein and fat and that makes them a super ideal feed ingredient for animals," she said.

Inside the Enterra Feed Corporation processing plant in Langley, B.C. (Enterra Feed Corporation)

To harvest the insects, staff empty the trays and put them through a dryer. Then the insects are screened for issues, packaged and shipped out.

With files from Elizabeth Withey and the Calgary Eyeopener.