Unusual feed fills a need
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.