Agri ThinkTank, a local firm using black soldier flies to turn food waste into animal feed, is among this year’s Wege Prize finalists, organizers announced on Wednesday, April 12. Now in its tenth year, Wege Prize is an international student design competition organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), that ignites game-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college and university students around the world. Rwandan startup Green promoter emerged the winner during last year’s competitions and scooped $30,000 cash prize. According to organizers, Agri ThinkTank harnesses the power of insects to convert food waste into valuable proteins. “Based in Rwanda, Agri Think Tank is helping farmers access products that maximize agricultural production, reduce environmental contamination, and improve living standards. Developed products are accessed and sold through an app, which identifies when waste is available to collect and connects users to the resulting compost and feed products.” The firm is among five finalists, who are expected to make their final pitches for the top prize in May, this year. Wege Prize says it looks to advance solutions for today’s “wicked problems” such as hunger, waste, pollution and climate change. The nine month-long multiphase competition from a global field of participants represents almost 100 areas of academic study at 70 universities and colleges from an astounding 29 countries. Through an immersive process transcending fields of study, cultures, and institutional boundaries, Wege Prize teams are inspired to reframe normal ways of producing and consuming. The teams engage in intensive research, testing, networking and prototyping, with direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges. “In this way, the teams create new products, services, business models, and solutions cutting through systemic issues — while also helping power a transition to a regenerative, circular economy,” says Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD professor and Wege Prize organizer. How the solution works For over a hundred million years, fly species have been breaking down waste material, whilst providing food for fish, birds, and animals higher up the food chain. This is the essence of Agri think tank’s - black soldier flies (hermetia illucens) are used to transform discarded organic matter into high-quality protein feed for the fish, poultry and other industries. By using the remarkable nutrient-recycling capacity of the black soldier fly larvae, organic waste can be converted into high-quality protein in a very short time period. What makes it particularly smart is the residual material from the conversion process is a high-quality compost that can be used to regenerate soils.