Black Soldier Fly combined with Biochar, Earthworms and Korean Natural Farming EM

I like systems. I am also not frightened by complexity, which is just as well since systems tend to be well… complex.

Everything in the title is concerned with using what is to hand. Simple fact of the matter is that most of this will be waste. Korean Natural Farming uses waste of all sorts from seared bones to fish heads. The Black Soldier Fly is a beneficial insect, just ignore the word fly, that converts food waste (putrescent or not, meat or not, dairy or not) into chitin, fat and protein, which you’ll agree are all very useful (if you don’t believe me type uses for chitin into Google and see what comes up).  Earthworms take the leavings from your cutting board and plates (with the exception of dairy and meat) and turns it into worm poop, also called vermicompost (which is in my opinion the best growing medium on the planet). Biochar takes a wide variety of organic waste and unbinds the carbon from everything else in it such that you have basically pure carbon, and more than this, pure carbon in a form which does not degrade in the soil for hundreds of years.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I should start trying to link the various forms of waste management into something which then serves as a fuel, catalysts and habitats for soil ecology. However the more I looked into this the more I found..

When I emailed Tristram Stuart, the author of the book Waste, which details the mind boggling massive and universally prevalent waste of food in developed countries about connecting that waste to black soldier fly, his concern was the possibility of it smelling bad. I took that on board and mulled it over. However, from my reading it appears that the other uses for biochar is that it removes odours from the air. So, the biochar, which is a soil improver can also be used to reduce the possibility of foul odours coming from another part of the system, namely the Black Soldier Fly bins.

There is also some evidence that the worm bin functions better when you dump Black Soldier Fly excreta into it. This of course makes perfect sense in that worms often get to something after the flies have taken their best shot at it. Could it be that this is a natural synergy that we are only now discovering? So that links the biochar odour reduced  black soldier bins with the worm bin.

Biochar (charcoal essentially)  itself is basically a sponge. It has a huge surface area, basically lots of pits, holes, tunnels etc with each and every surface space on it (of which there are a mind bogglingly huge number) capable of latching onto something and binding it. Put another way it’s an empty lattice just waiting to be filled. Biochar traps water and nutrients in a form which plants can then unbind. So it’s a good idea to soak it before you put it in the soil, or it will just suck the water right out of your soil.  Now Korean Natural Farming inputs are all solutions which means that biochar and Korean Natural Farming inputs is basically a match made in heaven.

Therefore a system which connects Korean Natural Farming Solutions with biochar with vermicompost systems with black soldier fly seems like a really good place to start.

Oh and biochar can be used to remove chemical and metal contamination from water, which if you have heavy metal laden ‘yellow dust’ storms flying in from China is certainly something to consider. Also if you connect your garden to an aquaponics system, some biochar could come in handy for your water supply, while the Black Soldier Fly and Worms feed your fish.



  1. August 23, 2012 at 5:40 am

    At the third US Biochar conference, 2012 Sonoma Biochar Conference 2012 US Biochar Conference | Building Soil – Redirecting Carbon

    My talk and slides provide a broad overview of Biochar applications;
    “Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate”

    If you are tantalized by the Biochar platform for biofuels, the cutting edge Big dog, Elephant in the room, at the Sonoma Biochar conference was CoolPlanet Energy Systems. In a nutshell, they have such control over carbon bonding in their thermal conversion process, they can squeeze out 75 gallons of bio- gasoline and 1/3 ton of Biochar from one ton of biomass.Their tag line; “The more you Drive… The Cleaner the Atmosphere”. They state their production cost at $1.25/gallon, they turn a dial and can produce $2/gallon jet fuel. I can hear you saying this is too good to be true, however Google, GE, BP and Conoco believe it is true.
    CoolPlanet Biofuel’s CEO Explains his energy cycle:

    This all leaves me very optimistic, for the CEO and Google share the same ethos, farm scale skid mounted reactors will be the first to production next year. This farmer friendly, scalable reactor, they plan to deploy at the village scale in the Third World and at the farmer scale here.

    I believe this technology will allow the American public to have their carbon free energy lunch without paying a premium for it.

    What’s good enough for Google… Is Good enough for me.



    Erich J. Knight
    Shenandoah Gardens
    1047 Dave Berry Rd. McGaheysville, VA. 22840

  2. August 28, 2012 at 4:23 am

    That’s obviously large scale stuff and quite beyond the scope of this blog, which focuses on DIY applications out of the home or small scale entrepreneur.

    Every little helps I say.

    • August 28, 2012 at 4:55 am

      My favorite homebrew Biochar, if you’re serious about making large amounts is the Jolly Roger Oven Hybrid. A combination retort driven by a 55 gallon TLUD. The TLUD needs feedstock with good airflow but the retort can carbonize anything. A one-hour run will produce a total 30 gallons of quality Biochar.

  3. September 2, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Thanks Erich, really useful information there. Not something I can use on a roof in a densely populated area like Seoul, but I know some peri-urban friends whose field adjoins an overgrown, untended forest.

  4. Brian Watts said,

    September 6, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Hello! Are you still in Korea? I feel like I have a lot of questions brewing in my brain that I would like to ask about South Korea, work, environment, etc ~ I have read just a few of your entries and what you write intrigues me.


    • September 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      Hi Brian,

      I am married to a Korean so I reckon the only way I will be leaving now is in a box. As for questions and the like, fire away.


  5. May 2, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Hi Ian,

    Have you got the means to add a small flock of quails to your waste cycle processing? ie creating a ‘deep litter’ system in a small aviary, introducing quails as primary processors of food waste and cycling the vermi-BSF-biochar mix into their flooring.

    I mention quails (instead of bantam hens) as they are have an incredible metabolism, produce highly desirable meat and eggs and silently go about their thrifty ways. No attention seeking crowing or cackling from the rooftops right?!

    I haven’t had direct experience with such a system, but am curious to see if such an waste to food experiment would work in rarefied rooftop environments.

    Keep up the great work!

    Timothy Tweets
    Permapoultry Australia

    • August 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Timothy,

      Thanks for the praise. It means a lot. 🙂

      Quail. It’s not something I had considered until now. For the moment, rooftop farming is on the back burner as I am working on something new. I was having problems with rooftop landlords. I had to take rooftops out of the equation. Your suggestion has gone into my ideas book as one worth exploring.

      • August 31, 2014 at 8:36 pm

        Ian- sorry to hear you’re not able to practice rooftop farming. Koreans love making use of every available bit of arable land so I’m surprised your experiments can’t continue- but hey, that’s city landlords for you- no different in Sydney Australia. Keep us posted on new projects or blogs once you’re up and running- quails make excellent indoor birds inside aquariums or similar sized cages BTW. Just make sure there is plenty of airflow and netting hanging from the roof to stop them banging their heads if they jump up in fright.

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