Un­usual feed fills a need

Shepparton News - Country News - - WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE -

Olympia Yarger doesn’t bat an eye­lid when she is in­tro­duced as ‘‘the mag­got farmer from Canberra’’.

She was on the panel of speak­ers at the Aus­tralian Women in Agri­cul­ture con­fer­ence in Shep­par­ton re­cently, and has ap­par­ently be­come ac­cus­tomed to the off-beat in­tro­duc­tion for her novel business.

She is prob­a­bly the small­est farmer in Canberra: her ‘farm’ is about 280 sq m in the sub­urb of Fysh­wick.

Ms Yarger feeds Canberra’s waste food to black sol­dier fly lar­vae, and sells the lar­vae (or mag­gots) as feed for poul­try farm­ers.

She said the feed from her Goterra business had a sim­i­lar pro­tein level to con­ven­tional stock feed.

One tonne of mag­gots munch their way through five tonnes of food waste in about 14 days.

The waste in­cludes food from of­fices, restau­rants and bak­eries, coffee grounds from McDon­ald’s and trial agri­cul­tural waste such as grape re­mains from wine-mak­ing and wheat husks.

Her com­pany also grows meal worms for over­seas hu­man con­sump­tion.

Ms Yarger grew up with sheep and cat­tle and at­tended school in Yass be­fore mov­ing to Canberra and later work­ing as a wool classer. After work­ing over­seas she re­turned to Aus­tralia and wanted to get into farm­ing but the cost was a bar­rier.

‘‘I started Goterra by chance. I was look­ing into set­ting up a free-range poul­try farm and was search­ing for an af­ford­able feed sub­sti­tute. Feed was ex­pen­sive and there were no sus­tain­able op­tions. With the help of Google, I dis­cov­ered in­sects could be used as an al­ter­na­tive feed, so I set about work­ing to fill the gap by breed­ing in­sects.

‘‘We sell live­stock feed to aqua­cul­ture farm­ers for fish feed, to pork pro­duc­ers for pig feed and to pet food com­pa­nies — how­ever, we hope to ex­pand on this in the fu­ture.’’

Speaker . . . Mag­got farmer Olympia Yarger at the Shep­par­ton con­fer­ence.

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