Business

USDA Awards $88,000 Grant for Chicken Feed

December 17, 2013, 1:54 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 8:52 AM
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Texas-based Prota Culture LLC, which launched its poultry feed research on the Big Island last year, hopes to revitalize a once-thriving Hawaii poultry industry by producing enough nutritious chicken feed to support large farms throughout the state.

This week Prota Culture was awarded a US Department of Agriculture grant of $88,168 to continue its research.

Prota Culture was funded by the DOA to develop “a competitively priced poultry feed in Hawaii rendered from organic wastes using a protein-synthesizing, beneficial insect,” said the ag department’s release.

Prota Culture simply uses black soldier fly larvae to eat food waste, then uses the fattened grubs to process into feed, said owner Robert Olivier, speaking from his Oahu office. The process also diverts food waste from landfills where it releases significant amounts of the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.

Rising costs of fuel and feed in Hawaii were largely to blame for the consumer shift from locally produced eggs to mainland-produced eggs that are shipped to Hawaii, Olivier said, taking down a $16 million local industry over the past 20 years.

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Now he aims to produce the feed cheaply enough locally to bring that business back to the islands.

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Olivier, who owns the web site compostmania.com., spoke to a Natural Farming Hawaii group in Kohala in 2011 about his process. Videos are online.

Olivier said he successfully experimented on a small scale with food waste from Cafe 100 at a site near Calavo Growers in Keaau last year, his first venture in commercial production, but said there’s a long way to go.

Olivier hopes to have a chicken feed mill operating in Panaewa by 2015 and has $600,000 from private and public funding sources to continue his research over the next 15 months, he said.

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A major road block could be the FDA, which doesn’t approve insect-based feed for commercial use, he acknowledged. “We need to scientifically prove this feed is safe for FDA approval.”

Currently developing the process on Oahu where feed stock (food waste) is plentiful, Olivier said there is enough food waste generated on Oahu alone to supply the entire state’s appetite for fresh eggs.

The DOA announced on Dec. 11 more than $18 million in grants to small businesses to conduct research and development that lead to technological innovations in agriculture.

Since 1983, the USDA program has awarded more than 2,000 research and development grants to American-owned, independently operated, for-profit businesses with 500 employees or fewer.

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