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Inspiring Conversations with Spencer Doepel of Ecoflys

Today we’d like to introduce you to Spencer Doepel.  

Hi Spencer, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Hi, my name is Spencer Doepel. Founder of At Ecoflys we produce nutrient-rich feed for animals, meeting the high demands for sustainability, by recycling food waste with black soldier fly larvae (to say it simply we take food from the trash feed it to larvae, and then sell the larva! If our black soldier fly larvae didn’t eat this food waste it would go to a landfill where it would rot, take up land, and pollute the earth with greenhouse gasses. 

Ecoflys provides food for the reptile, chickens, and fish while also providing a rich fertilizer for organic gardeners. 

Everyone always asks me how I got started doing this unusual job. Well, I personally am a reptile keeper and originally discovered black soldier larvae while doing research on what to feed my reptile. I started breeding black soldier fly larvae in 2019 to feed my reptiles and get rid of food waste. I love using black soldier fly larvae to feed my pets while also knowing I’m helping the environment. Black soldier fly larvae have 20-80 times more calcium than other insects making it perfect for preventing calcium deficiency in reptiles. 

Whether you are buying frass, live, or dried BSFL I would encourage you to look more into BSFL and how they can solve the waste problem around the world. With your help, we can grow and give more customers access to these great products while solving the waste problem in the United States. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been an exciting journey, with many highs and lows. Learning how to grow and breed the black soldier fly larvae had a steep learning curve but with time and experience, the process has been made faster and easier. Some of the challenges I have faced in growing the black soldier fly larvae were equipment malfunctions. Specifically, ventilation problems inside my grow room which caused the larvae to get out of their respective bins and pill onto the ground. 

Another challenge I have faced is the smell of the black soldier fly larvae when digesting the food, they can sometimes give off an ammonia smell that isn’t very pleasant. This has made it challenging to find rental spaces but not impossible. The smell can be mitigated with Carbon Filters but need to be replaced on a regular basis. 

My final and biggest challenge would be the economics of scale. I am only one person and can only sift/work on so many larvae bins at a time. Looking toward the future I would like to bring on employees and automate most of the system. 

Even though it can be a challenge growing them it is worth seeing my customer’s joy and excitement when feeding their reptile, a new insect. We are one of the only black soldier fly larvae producers in the United States making this a very rare item to find in person. Many times, when I am vending at reptile shows customers will tell me that they can’t find black soldier fly larvae anywhere and are grateful to have a resource like us. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Imagine… its 2050, there are ten billion people on planet earth…Ask yourself how will we feed all of these people? Even today 800 million people go hungry. The U.N. predicts a 70% increase in food production between now and twenty-fifty to feed this huge population. But at what cost… To the environment, to our health, and to our ethics. To accomplish the UN’s goal will take sustainable feed ingredients with minimal or net negative environmental impact. The typical feed ingredients such as fishmeal and soy will no longer be viable options because of a limited supply of fish and land. And that’s where Ecoflys comes in. 

For every one pound of black soldier fly larvae, we produced we can divert twenty pounds of food waste from going into a landfill. For every market we serve we provide value in a unique way. Reptiles and chickens require an abundance of calcium, fish farmers require an alternative to fishmeal, and finally, gardeners need organic and natural pesticide options. I champion this product by using it with all of my animals and in my garden at home. 

The black soldier fly larvae industry is in its infancy and the industry is predicted to grow at an annual growth rate of 34% until it reaches 3.4 billion dollars in twenty-thirty. 

What do you think about luck?
I think luck has played a role in my success. I didn’t own any reptiles until I was 19. (I am 23 now). Looking back, if I didn’t have reptiles, I would have never even heard of the black soldier fly larvae. Even having reptiles for a year, I hadn’t heard about black soldier fly larvae. I happened to stumble upon a YouTube video from the U.K. talking about black soldier fly larvae and I was hooked on the idea. 

I have also been blessed with a loving and supportive family and an amazing academic/entrepreneur community here in Akron. 

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