Aussie scientists aim to breed 'superfly'

·2-min read

Australian scientists are trying to breed a "superfly" that can produce up to one hundred times more offspring, with the larvae to also be used as animal food.

Using genetic technology, researchers from James Cook University are working with the Australian black soldier fly and a Queensland fly farm to breed a more productive fly whose larvae grow faster.

"It is a superfly that has high value in terms of protein content, in terms of the larvae that we then can supplement ... into animal feed," project leader Kyall Zenger told AAP.

The researchers would use natural variation in the population, picking the best flies as potential parents in breeding programs.

They are collaborating with FlyFarm Queensland to solve the challenges facing the industrial scale-up of Australian black soldier fly farming.

Not only will the larvae be a food source, it will also help to reduce waste, with everything from chicken manure to food waste fed to the larvae.

FlyFarm co-founder Constant Tedder said there was scope to do more with waste from industries such as horticulture and food and beverages.

"They're very efficient waste digesters and ...this particular larvae will eat a very wide range of waste types," he told AAP.

"We feed the waste into the tray based system where the larvae are feasting as they grow.

"There is a giant opportunity to do better with waste, to reduce landfill and emissions and generate value by producing sustainable locally produced protein to feed pets and aquaculture."

Professor Zenger said the research will inform a growing fly farming industry.

"You need to know what's happening on-far - which family is contributing to who, what genetics are passed on to each generation and are you maintaining the best genetics on farm," he said.

"You've got thousands of flies together. Do they all breed together or only a few males and a few females? If that happens, you might get inbreeding over time and ... a genetic reduction of performance."

Similar to other agricultural production systems, Prof Zenger hopes to develop larger volumes of bigger larvae.

"It's a win-win situation, reducing waste and producing a new viable product that is sustainable and has high economic value," he said.

It follows a similar research project announced in August by the University of Queensland which aims to produce better waste-munching flies.