Case 2: Maggots - Natureʼs Nurses
Case 2: Maggots - Nature's Nurses
reduce waste, promote health and generate 500,000 jobs within a decade
This article introduces "maggots" as one of the 100 innovations
that shape The Blue Economy, as part of a broad effort to
stimulate entrepreneurship, competitiveness and employment.
By Gunter Pauli
One estimate puts the amount of slaughterhouse waste around the world at 200 million
tons. The average weight of animal waste per European resident is approximately 150
kg per citizen per year putting the continentʼs share at 60 million tons. For each animal
we eat, approximately 50 percent ends up as waste. This has created a little known
billion dollar industry which converts carcasses, blood, brains and offal into recycled
meat, bone meal and animal fat.
As demand for animal feed increases to keep pace with humanityʼs growing appetite for
it, turning animal waste into animal feed has kept supply in balance. Demand for meat
and feed in developing countries is skyrocketing. India is turning into one of the worldʼs
largest livestock holdings requiring 37 million tons of animal feed annually. Local
abattoirs claim that 17 million tons could be supplied from their own waste. Grazing land
is scarce and overgrazing causes soil erosion. The supply of hay, corn and soy canʼt
keep up with demand, thus animal waste has become an option. What few realize is
that dairy cows and pigs which are natural herbivores are unwittingly turned into
carnivores. The scare around mad-cow disease forced many governments to prohibit
this practice and most animal waste is therefore simply incinerated at high temperature,
converting waste from cows to kilowatts.
Another piece of data to keep before us when considering the innovation described
below is that the cost of wound treatment for a leg ulcer is approximately $ 2,000 per
patient. However in the case of a diabetic suffering from a foot ulcer the cost is
estimated at $ 30,000. A gel treatment with antibiotics on average takes 72 days. This
increases the time a patient spends in a hospital bed. Unsuccessful treatment of ulcers
leads to amputation, requiring life long social and medical care exacerbating the
demand on government budgets which are already under considerable pressure.
Father Godfrey Nzamujo initiated in 1986 the Songhia Center in Porto Novo, the capital
city of Benin. The Nigeria-born priest established a food production center cascading
nutrients and energy following the Chinese traditional farming model known as
integrated biosystems (IBS). Over the years Father Nzamujo converted whatever is
considered waste from one process into a value added input for another. Waste plant
biomass is a substrate for mushrooms, waste water is converted into biogas, leftovers
from food processing is feed for animals and the slaughter house waste is used to farm
Flies create an unhealthy environment. Offal like any decomposing waste attracts flies.
Father Nzamujo turned this challenge into an opportunity, creating “a fly hotel” where all
offal is carefully spread over hundreds of small square open containers with nets
blocking birds out. The flies lay eggs and produce up to one ton of maggots each week.
The maggots, rich in protein, are harvested and served as feed for fish and quails. The
process generates low cost protein and concentrates all flies into one area while
eliminating a major nuisance for the farm.
In parallel Professor Stephen Britland built his career at Bradford University (UK) around
the study of the health benefits of maggots. The use of maggots for wound care has
been practiced by the Mayas and the Aboriginal tribes. Napoleonʼs physician observed
during his Egyptian exploit that soldiers whose wounds had become colonized with
maggots experienced lower morbidity than others. Professor Britland has demonstrated
that instead of applying live maggots, as proposed by the Welsh company Zoobiotics,
enzymes extracted from the maggotsʼ saliva could do the same job without causing the
Professor Britland went on to create with partners Advanced Gel Technologies,
combining innovations in gel research with the active ingredients from maggots. The
present hypothesis is that the maggot enzymes not only cleanse the wounds, but
produce an electro-magnetic environment that stimulates cell growth. Research
undertaken by Professor Nicky Cullum, a specialist in wound care, confirmed the
efficiency of maggot treatment in the British Medical Journal in March 2009. Maggot
treated wounds clear in 14 days, five time faster than those treated with antibiotics.
The First Cash Flow
Father Nzamujo reduced the cost for fish feed thanks to the massive production of
maggots. However, the greatest financial benefit is obtained from the quails which
produce eggs that are in high demand in Europe. The export of eggs from free range
and naturally fed quails generates substantial revenue. However, when exposed to the
production system of Father Nzamujo, Professor Britland quickly understood that the
cost of production of maggot enzymes in Benin is only a fraction of their production cost
in the UK. The extraction of enzymes is easy - simply submerge the maggots in salt
water and all active ingredients are excreted. The live maggots can then be fed to fish
and birds. While there are issues to be resolved around the sterilization of this
biologically active compound, the volume from Benin permits a broad market entry at
considerably lower costs.
Maggot nurses are of interest not only to the 800 medical centers in the US and UK that
offer such wound treatment since the Food and Drug Administrations in Europe and
America approved the procedure in 2005. The biggest opportunity is likely in Africa
itself. While we are well aware of the havoc generated by AIDS, malaria and iodine
deficiency, what few know is that millions of Africans are marginalized in society due to
ill-treated wounds. At the same time, millions of Africans are exposed to unhygienic
living conditions in and around abattoirs.
If all of the waste from abattoirs were used to produce maggots for wound care, fish and
bird feed, then the 3,000 recognized slaughterhouses could generate an additional
500,000 jobs, while manufacturing local treatments, reducing the cost of wound care,
and limiting the social marginalization caused by lack of health services.
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