A factory in eastern China is raising one billion cockroaches to help process tons of food waste every day.
The plant, located in Jinan, Shandong province receives 55 tons of kitchen waste a day — a minuscule fraction of the 1.3 billion tons wasted by the world each year.
The food waste, which weighs about seven adult elephants, arrives at the plant run by Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co. at dawn.
It is then processed as a mushy mixture before being delivered to the roaches through pipes.
Aside from consuming waste, the roaches also generate heat that help grow vegetables.
And when they die, their bodies are milled and baked to become livestock feed.
Shandong Qiaobin’s founder, Li Yanrong, previously worked for a pharmaceutical firm before building his 6,300-square-meter (67,812-square-foot) roach farm in the city’s Zhangqiu district. He was inspired by a cartoon clip that he watched with his daughter, where roaches survived for 90 days without food and 40 days without water.
“Most kitchen waste in the city is being buried in landfills,” Li told Xinhua. “I thought I could make use of the ravenous character of cockroaches to help deal with the waste.”
Li founded his business in 2011, obtaining six patents and submitting 36 applications for opening the farm.
He has been raising American roaches, the largest of all common species with the longest life cycle.
The entrepreneur admitted that some people fear that his roaches — which live for an average of 300 days — might escape, but the company is prepared for such possibility.
“Multiple sealing measures have been taken. There are water curtains on every entrance,” Li said, adding that he grows fish that prey on the roaches.
According to Reuters, Shandong Qiaobin plans to build three more cockroach plants this year. If everything goes well, they will be able to process one-third of Jinan’s total food waste.
And aside from turning roaches into livestock feed, the company also explores the possibility of using them for diet pills and high-protein cosmetics. As company chairwoman Li Hongyi said, “It’s like turning trash into resources.”
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