Big bug busi­ness

Cock­roaches cor­ralled by the mil­lions in China to crunch waste.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living -

IN the near pitch-dark, you can hear them be­fore you see them – mil­lions of cock­roaches scut­tling and flut­ter­ing across stacks of wooden boards as they devour food scraps by the tonne in a novel form of ur­ban waste dis­posal.

The air is warm and hu­mid – just as cock­roaches like it – to en­sure the colonies keep their health and vo­ra­cious ap­petites.

Ex­pand­ing Chi­nese cities are gen­er­at­ing more food waste than they can ac­com­mo­date in land­fills, and cock­roaches could be a way to get rid of hills of food scraps, pro­vid­ing nu­tri­tious food for live­stock when the bugs even­tu­ally die and, some say, cures for stom­ach ill­ness and beauty treat­ments.

On the out­skirts of Ji­nan, cap­i­tal of eastern Shan­dong prov­ince, a bil­lion cock­roaches are be­ing fed with 50 tonnes of kitchen waste a day – the equiv­a­lent in weight to seven adult ele­phants.

The waste ar­rives be­fore day­break at the plant run by Shan­dong Qiaobin Agri­cul­tural Tech­nol­ogy Co, where it is fed through pipes to cock­roaches in their cells.

Shan­dong Qiaobin plans to set up three more such plants next year, aim­ing to process a third of the kitchen waste pro­duced by Ji­nan, home to about seven mil­lion peo­ple.

A na­tion­wide ban on us­ing food waste as pig feed due to African swine fever out­breaks is also spurring the growth of the cock­roach in­dus­try. “Cock­roaches are a bio-tech­no­log­i­cal path­way for the con­vert­ing and pro­cess­ing of kitchen waste,” said Liu Yusheng, pres­i­dent of Shan­dong In­sect In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

Cock­roaches are also a good source of pro­tein for pigs and other live­stock. “It’s like turn­ing trash into re­sources,” said Shan­dong Qiaobin chair­woman Li Hongyi.

Essence of cock­roach

In a re­mote vil­lage in Sichuan, Li Bing­cai, 47, has sim­i­lar ideas.

Li, for­merly a mo­bile phone ven­dor, has in­vested a mil­lion yuan (RM603,935) in cock­roaches, which he sells to pig farms and fish­eries as feed and to drug com­pa­nies as medic­i­nal in­gre­di­ents.

His farm now has 3.4 mil­lion cock­roaches.

“Peo­ple think it’s strange that I do this kind of busi­ness,” Li said. “It has great eco­nomic value, and my goal is to lead other vil­lagers to pros­per­ity if they fol­low my lead.”

His vil­lage has two farms. Li’s goal is to cre­ate 20.

Else­where in Sichuan, a com­pany called Good­doc­tor is rear­ing six bil­lion cock­roaches.

“The essence of cock­roach is good for cur­ing oral and pep­tic ul­cers, skin wounds and even stom­ach can­cer,” said Wen Jian­guo, man­ager of Good­doc­tor’s cock­roach fa­cil­ity.

Re­searchers are also look­ing into us­ing cock­roach ex­tract in beauty masks, diet pills and even hair-loss treat­ments.

At Good­doc­tor, when cock­roaches reach the end of their life­span of about six months, they are blasted by steam, washed and dried, be­fore be­ing sent to a huge nu­tri­ent ex­trac­tion tank.

Asked about the chance of the cock­roaches es­cap­ing, Wen said that would be wor­thy of a dis­as­ter movie but that he has taken pre­cau­tions.

“We have a moat filled with wa­ter and fish,” he said. “If the cock­roaches es­cape, they will fall into the moat and the fish will eat them all.” – Reuters

— Pho­tos: Reuters

Cock­roaches are seen among card­boards at a farm in Xichang, Sichuan prov­ince, China.

Work­ers sort kitchen waste to feed cock­roaches at a waste pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in Shan­dong prov­ince.

Chil­dren of cock­roach farm owner Li Bing­cai eat fried cock­roaches at his farm in a vil­lage in Changn­ing county.

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