Larvae lead a closed-loop system — and inspire a vision for a better society

Food waste from Sewanee dining halls turns into feed for chickens and fish, which in turn becomes food for the students at Sewanee, all thanks to larvae.

The other day, I asked Chris Hornsby (Sewanee Class of 2019), left, to tell me his story. Here's what he had to say:

When asked to define my purpose in life, I have stated it as such: May I live with vision of a world which I may work to create, and ensure that the work of my hands may always be building this future. To explain this vision, let me begin with a bug.

This is the larvae of a black soldier fly (or BSF), raised in Sewanee, Tennessee, at the University Farm that I work for.

Chris Hornsby holds the larva of a black soldier fly, or BSF.

Using this insect, we can convert large quantities of food waste into a feed for chicken and fish. The BSF is native to most of the Western Hemisphere, and in its two week larval stage, it has the capability to eat twice its weight in a day. They are fed food waste from our dining hall and, in peak production, we plan to be taking 500 pounds of food waste a day.

A cooler is used for the decomposition of food waste by black soldier flies.

After this two week phase, the larva will eclose into an adult fly with no mouth, so it is neither a disease vector nor a crop pest. Before eclosion, we will feed a majority of these larva to chicken and fish being raised on the University Farm, which in turn will be a food source for the students in Sewanee. This closed-loop system has the capability to fulfill a service and create an agricultural product.

My dream, however, extends beyond Sewanee. Consider this: At a bare minimum, two people are required to run this system. One with a knowledge of BSF waste management, and one with a knowledge of how to finance and run a successful business. These two people will support themselves off the income of the business, deciding together what their allowable expenses are and where to reinvest profits. Now, in the current status quo of entrepreneurialism and corporate hierarchy, these two individuals would become managers, and hire wage-labor employees. Minimum wages flow downward, and maximized profits flow to the top.

I challenge this system as a fundamental source of capital inequality in our society, which produces an impoverished labor force, and a politically influential corporate elite. This is the nature of a consumerist society, as to further our own progression, we must constantly be encouraging economic growth and consumption of goods. This system has created a workforce surviving paycheck to paycheck, told to invest in the economy and buy useless goods in order to foster economic growth, while the elite enjoy the true profits of a subdued workforce.

Rather than following this path toward inevitable inequality, the onus placed on any member wishing to join this model will be such: How will you work as a member to expand the income of this group to support your own financial needs? The possible answers to this question can be diverse, meeting a range of needs of the pre-existing group. An applying member may offer access to a wider customer base (those paying for waste service removal), thus increasing the monetary income of the group. Or, they may offer the service of food preparation or cultivation, thus providing a non-monetary source of income.

At a time when this group continues to grow, they may decide to purchase some land, and grow their own food. Thus a self-reliant community is born.

If any member of this group does not perform their function to the best of their ability, the community will fail. For example, if the individual running the business puts in foul labor, the community will have no monetary income. If the agriculturalist does not grow adequate food, the community will be hungry. If the home-builder fails to build adequate living space, the community will have no shelter. The interdependence of such a community is reinforced through mutual need.

Therefore, all roles hold equal importance in overall success, and all members hold an equal voice in the decision-making process of where to allocate scarce resources, and what the needs of the community are. Such a horizontal democracy extends beyond arbitrary divisions of race, class, and gender. Through this model, the inequality and hierarchy of corporate America could be virtually eradicated. With communities producing their own food, the industrial agricultural complex will die, as its consumer base and workforce disappear into their own communities.

This model is applicable with any skilled trade as a means of providing income — imagine a community of doctors, trading with a community of waste managers to meet mutual needs. Goodbye to the monopolistic healthcare industry. Communities of educators teaching the children of America skilled trades, and how to live in a society that values wellbeing and happiness over success and wealth. Goodbye to the state-sponsored education of robotic and bureaucratic laborers.

I wish to note, that purposefully, this community will not have great amounts of excess wealth, for this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. The needs of the community will be met, and nothing more. There can be no desire to waste precious resources on the unnecessary overconsumption of goods and services which meet no need. A community of this type also lacks the financial wealth to pay for swaths of land to be deforested for timber harvesting, or for oil to be mined, or for residential or commercial development, protecting the integrity of our land, our watersheds, our forests, or lifeblood, which we share with the diversity of creatures on earth.

To conclude, I would like to warn those who are seeking some glorious revolution to herald in a new age of equality and justice. Refer to a history book on the subject, and you can clearly see (the) perpetual unfolding of such revolutions, in which the middle class usurps the lower class in order to establish themselves as the elite, then abandons their promises of liberty and freedom, and a new demographic is found to be oppressed. When power is used to disrupt power, control is lost. The victim of power is annihilated, and the user is intoxicated. Thus, a true revolution will be a complete rejection of power as a means to dominate others, and total investment in the power of the tribal community.

Rather than use violent means and political warfare to establish itself, community power will spread like wildfire with the strength of vision. This is not a revolution of words, but one of action. I invite you to invoke your own vision, and work with others to create a powerful, self-sustaining community.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.