Monday, February 16, 2015

This Bill Gates-supported startup is about to open the world's largest fly farm in South Africa


jason drew pub

The world's largest fly farm is about to open in South Africa as part of an initiative to produce sustainable feed for chicken and fish.

Industrial farmed chicken and fish eat fish meal, which is bad for the environment because it depletes already fragile fish resources. To create 1 kilogram of high-protein fish meal, for example, it takes 4.5 kilogrammes of smaller pelagic fish such as anchovies and sardines, according to Time Magazine.

The cost of fish meal is also rising with increased demand for fish. Fish meal sold for less than $500 (£325 ) a tonne in the early 2000s, but last year it peaked at $2,400 (£1,562) a tonne, according to Bloomberg.

But AgriProtein, a South African farming company, has a solution. AgriProtein produces MagMeal — animal feed that is made from fly larvae that feeds on waste. The benefit of MagMeal is two-fold: It offers a sustainable, natural source of protein for farmed animals (there's no shortage of flies), and at the same time, helps to eliminate garbage. 

In 2012, AgriProtein received funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support its insect-based protein product and the company's commitment to waste solutions.  


“It is not different from what already happens in nature,” Jason Drew, the founder and director of AgriProtein told Business Insider UK. “The anomaly is what we do now — 30% of the fish we take is not consumed by humans, but rather fed to fishes or chickens. I mean, if ! a chicke n was meant to eat fish it would be called a seagull."

AgriProtein, founded in 2009, started building its first industrial-scale factory in May 2014. The plant, which can house more than 8 billion flies and produce 22 tons of larvae every day, is set to open next month, according to Drew. 

How it works

Common flies are harvested with organic waste, such as food leftovers from supermarkets and restaurants and remains from slaughterhouses. The flies lay their eggs in the waste, and these eggs rapidly turn into larvae, eating the waste as they grow. The BBC calculated that one kilogram of eggs becomes 380 kilogrammes of larvae in just three days.

After a few days, before they become flies, the larvae are collected, washed, and pressurised into MagMeal, which can be delivered to chicken barns and fish farms.

Opening a new fly farm costs about £5.2 million ($8 million), but the investment would be amortised very quickly since the operational costs are low. AgriProtein already has an agreement with Cape Town’s waste disposal agency, helping them to sort out what to do with the garbage of a city of four million.

Magmeal HRAgriProtein raised £7.15 million ($11 million) from private backers like Twynam and s.Oliver to help build its latest commercial farm.

The future of the food industry

A native Yorkshireman, Drew moved to South Africa in 2003. Five years later, he quit his job as manager to dedicate his career to the environment.

Now, Drew calls himself an &ld! quo;envi ronmental capitalist.”

“The industrial revolution is over, and the sustainability revolution has begun," Drew says. "During the industrial revolution you either were environmentalist or a capitalist, and you couldn’t be both. But I am a capitalist and an environmentalist the same time."

He adds: "I am in the business to make millions, but I want to defend the environment. The sustainability revolution can be both: the environmentalists needs to understand that they must follow the market, or otherwise they will fail, and the markets need to understand that if you are a businessman who doesn’t understand the environment you will fail.”

Drew has written two books with one more, "The Environmental Capitalist," set to arrive in April. Drew also spoke about his flies at TEDx and Creative Innovation.

Drew's aim is to feed a growing world population without further depleting the planet’s natural resources. Every day, the world populations grows by 200,000. To meet this growth, combined with an increase demand for protein from the developing world, the world’s annual production of meat will have to increase to 376 million tonnes by 2030, according to the World Health Organization. Fifteen years ago, it was little more than 200 million tonnes.

Although AgriProtein has approval in South Africa, it is still banned in Europe due to a regulation introduced during the mad cow disease epidemic that prohibits the feeding of livestock with processed meat. MagMeal falls into this category! .

The new farm, located about 120 kilometres north of Cape Town, will be joined by another South African facility later this year. 

“We are in talks to license our technology abroad," Drew says. "We want to bring fly farming to the US, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. In 15 years, we could have 40 to 45 of these farms worldwide.”

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NOW WATCH: Animated map of what Earth would look like if all the ice melted


Friday, February 13, 2015

Article: Scientists Have Figured Out a Way to Convert Solar Energy Into Liquid Fuel

The potential applications of solar power just got a whole lot wider Researchers at Harvard have discovered how to convert solar energy into liquid fuel, potentially accelerating our switch to the alternative-energy source, according to an article in this month's scientific journal Proceedings of...

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

How natural disasters terrorize the business world in one infographic


We all live with natural disasters happening all around us all the time. Volcanos, tsunamis, earthquakes, it's all around us.

But we don't often think about how it could affect us, and we very rarely think about how it could affect society at large, including the world of business.

The Eastern Kentucky University Department of Safety, Security, and Emergency Management recognized this and put together an awesome infographic on how the top natural disasters could affect business.

They say natural disasters have cost the global economy $2.5 trillion since 2000.

Here's the breakdown of the huge stakes, all in one place.


SEE ALSO: The countries most likely to survive climate change in one infographic

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NOW WATCH: 7 amazing maps that show how important Canada is


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Here's a Shocking Visualization of the Planet's Rising Temperatures


Here's a Shocking Visualization of the Planet's Rising Temperatures

Last week, NASA and NOAA announced that 2014 was the hottest year in Earth's recorded history . This animation by Bloomberg brings that finding into sharp focus.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Graphic clearly shows human pressure on Earth reaching critical level


Graphic clearly shows human pressure on Earth reaching critical level

Using 24 key social, economic, and environmental indicators, our friend Félix Pharand-Deschênes has created a dashboard that shows how human pressure on planet Earth is reaching critical level. Fast. The acceleration shown over the last 60 years is absolutely crazy. Zoom in. Freak out.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Four Ideas to Fix Beijing's Smog Airpocalypse, And One That Will Work 


Four Ideas to Fix Beijing's Smog Airpocalypse, And One That Will Work 

The worst smog of the year so far swept into Beijing this week, coating the city in a grainy, deep grey murk on par with what the city endured in 2013, pictured above. China is trying, hard, to get its air quality problem under control, and is considering some seriously wacky ways to do it. Unfortunately, the only one that will work is also the most difficult.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The 'Lungs Of The Earth' Are Being Destroyed


fishingAbout 3 billion people live within 100 miles (160km) of the sea, a number that could double in the next decade as humans flock to coastal cities like gulls. The oceans produce $3 trillion of goods and services each year and untold value for the Earth’s ecology. Life could not exist without these vast water reserves--and, if anything, they are becoming even more important to humans than before.

Mining is about to begin under the seabed in the high seas--the regions outside the exclusive economic zones administered by coastal and island nations, which stretch 200 nautical miles (370km) offshore. Nineteen exploratory licences have been issued. New summer shipping lanes are opening across the Arctic Ocean. The genetic resources of marine life promise a pharmaceutical bonanza: the number of patents has been rising at 12% a year. One study found that genetic material from the seas is a hundred times more likely to have anti-cancer properties than that from terrestrial life.

But these developments are minor compared with vaster forces reshaping the Earth, both on land and at sea. It has long been clear that people are damaging the oceans--witness the melting of the Arctic ice in summer, the spread of oxygen-starved dead zones and the death of coral reefs. Now, the consequences of that damage are starting to be felt onshore.

Thailand provides a vivid example. In the 1990s it cleared coastal mangrove swamps to set up shrimp farms. Ocean storm surges in 2011, no longer cushioned by the mangroves, rushed in to flood the country’s industrial heartland, causing billions of dollars of damage.

More serious is the global mismanagement of fish stocks. About 3 billion people get a fifth of their protein from fish, making it a more important protein source than beef. But a vicious cycle has developed as fi! sh stock s decline and fishermen race to grab what they can of the remainder. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a third of fish stocks in the oceans are over-exploited; some estimates say the proportion is more than half (see chart). One study suggested that stocks of big predatory species--such as tuna, swordfish and marlin--may have fallen by as much as 90% since the 1950s. People could be eating much better, were fishing stocks properly managed.


The forests are often called the lungs of the Earth, but the description better fits the oceans. They produce half the world’s supply of oxygen, mostly through photosynthesis by aquatic algae and other organisms. But according to a forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; the group of scientists who advise governments on global warming), concentrations of chlorophyll (which helps makes oxygen) have fallen by 9-12% in 1998-2010 in the North Pacific, Indian and North Atlantic Oceans.

Climate change may be the reason. At the moment, the oceans are moderating the impact of global warming--though that may not last (see box on page 54). Warm water rises, so an increase in sea temperatures tends to separate cold and warm water into more distinct layers, with shallower mixed layers in between. That seems to lower the quantity of nutrients available for aquatic algae, and to lead to decreased chlorophyll concentrations. Changes in the oceans, therefore, may mean less oxygen will be produced.

This cannot be good news, though scientists are still debating the likely consequences. The world is not about to suffocate. But the result could be lower oxygen concentrations in the oceans and changes to the climate because the counterpart of less oxygen is more carbon--adding to the build-up of greenhouse gases. In short, the decades of damage wreaked on the oceans are no! w damagi ng the terrestrial environment.

A tragedy foretold

The oceans exemplify the "tragedy of the commons"--the depletion of commonly held property by individual users, who harm their own long-term interests as a result. For decades scientists warned that the European Union’s fishing quotas were too high, and for decades fishing lobbyists persuaded politicians to ignore them. Now what everyone knew would happen has happened: three-quarters of the fish stocks in European waters are over-exploited and some are close to collapse.

The salient feature of such a tragedy is that the full cost of damaging the system is not borne by those doing the damage. This is most obvious in fishing, but goes further. Invasive species of many kinds are moved around the world by human activity--and do an estimated $100 billion of damage to oceans each year. Farmers dump excess fertiliser into rivers, which finds its way to the sea; there cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) feed on the nutrients, proliferate madly and reduce oxygen levels, asphyxiating all sea creatures.

In 2008, there were over 400 "dead zones" in the oceans. Polluters pump out carbon dioxide, which dissolves in seawater, producing carbonic acid. That in turn has increased ocean acidity by over a quarter since the start of the Industrial Revolution. In 2012, scientists found pteropods (a kind of sea snail) in the Southern Ocean with partially dissolved shells.

It is sometimes possible to preserve commons by assigning private property rights over them, thus giving users a bigger stake in their long-term health. That is being tried in coastal and island nations’ exclusive economic zones. But it does not apply on the high seas. Under international law, fishing there is open to all and minerals count as "the common heritage of mankind". Here, a mishmash of international rules and institutions determines the condition of the watery commons.

Economist overfishing chart

The high seas are not ungoverned. Almost every country has ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which, in the words of Tommy Koh, president of UNCLOS in the 1980s, is "a constitution for the oceans". It sets rules for everything from military activities and territorial disputes (like those in the South China Sea) to shipping, deep-sea mining and fishing. Although it came into force only in 1994, it embodies centuries-old customary laws, including the freedom of the seas, which says the high seas are open to all. UNCLOS took decades to negotiate and is sacrosanct. Even America, which refuses to sign it, abides by its provisions.

But UNCLOS has significant faults. It is weak on conservation and the environment, since most of it was negotiated in the 1970s when these topics were barely considered. It has no powers to enforce or punish. America’s refusal to sign makes the problem worse: although it behaves in accordance with UNCLOS, it is reluctant to push others to do likewise.

Alphabet bouillabaisse

Specialised bodies have been set up to oversee a few parts of the treaty, such as the International Seabed Authority, which regulates mining beneath the high seas. But for the most part UNCLOS relies on member countries and existing organisations for monitoring and enforcement. The result is a baffling tangle of overlapping authorities (see diagram) that is described by the Global Ocean Commission, a new high-level lobby group, as a "co-ordinated catastrophe".

Individually, some of the institutions work well enough. The International Maritime Organisation, which regulates global shipping, keeps a register of merchant and passenger vessels, which must carry identification numbers. The result is a reasonably law-abiding global industry. It is also responsible for one of the rare success stories of recent decades, the standards applying to routine and accidental discharges of p! ollution from ships. But even it is flawed. The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, a German think-tank, rates it as the least transparent international organisation. And it is dominated by insiders: contributions, and therefore influence, are weighted by tonnage.

Other institutions look good on paper but are untested. This is the case with the seabed authority, which has drawn up a global regime for deep-sea mining that is more up-to-date than most national mining codes. For once, therefore, countries have settled the rules before an activity gets under way, rather than trying to catch up when the damage starts, as happened with fishing.

The problem here is political rather than regulatory: how should mining revenues be distributed? Deep-sea minerals are supposed to be "the common heritage of mankind". Does that mean everyone is entitled to a part? And how to share it out?

The biggest failure, though, is in the regulation of fishing. Overfishing does more damage to the oceans than all other human activities there put together. In theory, high-seas fishing is overseen by an array of regional bodies. Some cover individual species, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT, also known as the International Conspiracy to Catch All Tuna). Others cover fishing in a particular area, such as the north-east Atlantic or the South Pacific Oceans. They decide what sort of fishing gear may be used, set limits on the quantity of fish that can be caught and how many ships are allowed in an area, and so on.

Here, too, there have been successes. Stocks of north-east Arctic cod are now the highest of any cod species and the highest they have been since 1945--even though the permitted catch is also at record levels. This proves it is possible to have healthy stocks and a healthy fishing industry. But it is a bilateral, not an international, achievement: only Norway and Russia capture these fish and they jointly follow scientists’ advice about how! much to take.

Economist overfishing chart 2

There has also been some progress in controlling the sort of fishing gear that does the most damage. In 1991 the UN banned drift nets longer than 2.5km (these are nets that hang down from the surface; some were 50km long). A series of national and regional restrictions in the 2000s placed limits on "bottom trawling" (hoovering up everything on the seabed)--which most people at the time thought unachievable.

But the overall record is disastrous. Two-thirds of fish stocks on the high seas are over-exploited--twice as much as in parts of oceans under national jurisdiction. Illegal and unreported fishing is worth $10 billion-24 billion a year--about a quarter of the total catch. According to the World Bank, the mismanagement of fisheries costs $50 billion or more a year, meaning that the fishing industry would reap at least that much in efficiency gains if it were properly managed.

Most regional fishery bodies have too little money to combat illegal fishermen. They do not know how many vessels are in their waters because there is no global register of fishing boats. Their rules only bind their members; outsiders can break them with impunity. An expert review of ICCAT, the tuna commission, ordered by the organisation itself concluded that it was "an international disgrace". A survey by the FAO found that over half the countries reporting on surveillance and enforcement on the high seas said they could not control vessels sailing under their flags. Even if they wanted to, then, it is not clear that regional fishery bodies or individual countries could make much difference.

But it is far from clear that many really want to. Almost all are dominated by fishing interests. The exceptions are the organisation for Antarctica, where scientific researchers are influential, and the International Whaling Commission! , which admitted environmentalists early on. Not by coincidence, these are the two that have taken conservation most seriously.

Empty promises

Countries could do more to stop vessels suspected of illegal fishing from docking in their harbours--but they don’t. The FAO’s attempt to set up a voluntary register of high-seas fishing boats has been becalmed for years. The UN has a fish-stocks agreement that imposes stricter demands than regional fishery bodies. It requires signatories to impose tough sanctions on ships that break the rules. But only 80 countries have ratified it, compared with the 165 parties to UNCLOS. One study found that 28 nations, which together account for 40% of the world’s catch, are failing to meet most of the requirements of an FAO code of conduct which they have signed up to.

It is not merely that particular institutions are weak. The system itself is dysfunctional. There are organisations for fishing, mining and shipping, but none for the oceans as a whole. Regional seas organisations, whose main responsibility is to cut pollution, generally do not cover the same areas as regional fishery bodies, and the two rarely work well together. (In the north-east Atlantic, the one case where the boundaries coincide, they have done a lot.) Dozens of organisations play some role in the oceans (including 16 in the UN alone) but the outfit that is supposed to co-ordinate them, called UN-Oceans, is an ad-hoc body without oversight authority. There are no proper arrangements for monitoring, assessing or reporting on how the various organisations are doing--and no one to tell them if they are failing.

Pressure for change is finally building up. According to David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary who is now co-chairman of the Global Ocean Commission, the current mess is a "terrible betrayal" of current and future generations. "We need a new approach to the economics and governance of the high seas," he says.

That could take different forms. ! Environm entalists want a moratorium on overfished stocks, which on the high seas would mean most of them. They also want regional bodies to demand impact assessments before issuing fishing licences. The UN Development Programme says rich countries should switch some of the staggering $35 billion a year they spend subsidising fishing on the high seas (through things like cheap fuel and vessel-buy-back programmes) to creating marine reserves--protected areas like national parks.

Galapagos marine reserve

Others focus on institutional reform. The European Union and 77 developing countries want an "implementing agreement" to strengthen the environmental and conservation provisions of UNCLOS. They had hoped to start what will doubtless be lengthy negotiations at a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. But opposition from Russia and America forced a postponement; talks are now supposed to start by August 2015.

Still others say that efforts should be concentrated on improving the regional bodies, by giving them more money, greater enforcement powers and mandates that include the overall health of their bits of the ocean. The German Advisory Council on Global Change, a think-tank set up by the government, argues for an entirely new UN body, a World Oceans Organisation, which it hopes would increase awareness of ocean mismanagement among governments, and simplify and streamline the current organisational tangle.

According to Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2009, to avoid a tragedy of the commons requires giving everyone entitled to use them a say in running them; setting clear boundaries to keep out those who are not entitled; appointing monitors who are trusted by users; and having straightforward mechanisms to resolve conflicts. At the moment, the governance of the high seas meets none of those criteria.

Changes to high-seas man! agement would still do nothing for two of the worst problems, both caused on land: acidification and pollution. But they are the best and perhaps only hope of improving the condition of half of the Earth’s surface.

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