[Outstanding HenanU] Yang Sen: The Million Dollar Bug!

10月26日,在首届中国·河南开放创新暨跨国技术转移大会上河南农业大学向新加坡南达公司“出口”技术 October 26th, at the first annual China-Henan Open Innovation & Transnational Technology Transference Conference Henan U signed a contract to ‘export’ their IP to Singaporean Company Lam Tak.

Henan, China. On the 26th of October 2019, Gen Y researcher Professor Yang Sen recently signed a contract worth US$ 1.5 Million dollars with Singaporean Company Lam Tak Pte. Ltd. for his research on an insect called Hermetia Illucens, also known as the Black Soldier Fly.

26th October 2019, during the first annual China-Henan Open Innovation & Transnational Technology Transference Conference, Henan Agricultural University and Singaporean Company Lam Tak signed an Intellectual Property Licensing Agreement Contract that caught everyone's attention. According to the contents of the agreement, Henan Agricultural University will be authorizing the use of their patented Black Soldier Fly artificial breeding & related technologies to Lam Tak for a sum of US$ 1.5 million dollars, or RMB 10.63 Million Yuan.

What exactly is the Black Soldier Fly? What kind of technology is so valuable that it would incite this Singaporean company to come thousands of kilometers to Henan for it? Who invented all these technology in the first place? Following these queries, our reporter found the answers with the inventor of this multi-million yuan technology-- Henan Agricultural University School of Life Science's very own Associate Professor Yang Sen.

Prof Yang instructing students during an experiment

Nowadays with the push for global sustainability and where clean, healthy environments are as valuable as gold or silver, a lot of attention is being directed towards sustainable disposal of consumer waste, livestock excrement as well as agricultural by-products. It is no wonder that many environmentally conscious scientists and researchers are devoting their life's work to finding solutions by turning waste into wealth.

In the School of Life Sciences at Henan Agricultural University, Gen-Y research Professor Yang Sen has spent more than a decade scrutinizing the very rubbish & excrement that people in general tend to avoid. In the end, he has found the 'golden key' of a solution in a little bug called the Black Soldier Fly that is native to the Americas. Using this insect, Professor Yang developed a practical and industrial method of bio-converting oil palm residue and kitchen waste into invaluable insect protein that has garnered the approval of international experts; as well as a contract of US$ 1.5 Million dollar with Singapore's Lam Tak Company.

For a Chinese researcher to be able to sell this American bug to a South East Asian at this exorbitant of a price, really makes many wonder: What exactly makes Prof. Yang's research so valuable?

"Don't judge a bug by its cover!"

""The black soldier fly is such a marvel. It's being promoted by the United Nations as one of the newest sustainable sources of animal protein for livestock feed." "Not only do they not carry disease, they don't sting, don't bite, don't invade human habitats; their gut bacteria is strong enough to inhibit and destroy harmful bacteria such as E. coli. Their larvae eat just about anything: food waste, livestock and poultry faeces, agricultural by-products and other such bio-organic waste. The larvae are also exceptionally hardy and utilizing them is an effective method to reducing environmental pollution." "The larvae and pupae of the Black Soldier Fly are full of essential nutrients for livestock and aquaculture: amino acids and calcium. They are an ideal source of animal feed..."

Professor Yang talks about the Black Soldier Fly as if its an immeasurable treasure, and his 'love' for the topic is beyond words.

The Black Soldier Fly, also known as Hermetia illucens, native to the Neotropical ecozone (Central & South America). It is a detritivore from the family Stratiomyidae (commonly known as Soldier Fly) and under the order Diptera (same order as the common house fly). Able to obtain its nutrients from animal feces and common waste, the larvae of the Black Soldier Fly are also known as 'Phoenix Worms', becoming part of the pantheon of maggots, mealworms, superworms and other insects as animal feed that slowly gaining traction worldwide.

Prof. Yang inspecting the egg laying of BSF at Nanyang Breeding Site during winter

Prof Yang's relationship with the Black Soldier Fly is a journey spanning more than ten years. In 2003, Yang Sen was admitted into Henan Agricultural University's School of Animal Husbandry for Biomedical Engineering which cemented his direction in biological research. In 2007, Yang Sen continued his studies in Huazhong Agricultural University, where he was first exposed to the Black Soldier Fly while he was specializing in microbiology under the tutelage of Professor Yu Ziniu.

"At first I thought this bug was nothing special," Professor Yang says jokingly, "But following in my country's emphasis on biological research, it became apparent that the Black Soldier Fly had a lot of untapped potential and benefits. And so it became a lot more attractive to me."

And so, for 6 years of his Master’s and Doctoral research, from theoretical to practical research, the Black Soldier Fly became the main topic Yang Sen's research. In 2013, Yang Sen, now a PhD holder, returned to his alma mater Henan Agricultural University to become a professor in the School of Life Sciences.

"My research on the Black Soldier Fly accelerated after I joined Henan Agricultural University!" says Professor Yang, unlike his undergraduate days, the university now provides him with larger platforms and more resources that have supercharged his research on the Black Soldier Fly.

In just 6 short years, Professor Yang has worked on a multitude of projects with the Black Soldier Fly, uncovering many breakthrough discoveries between the Black Soldier Fly and micro-organisms, enzyme technology, automation technology, waste processing technology, domestication and selective breeding and many other topics.

Professor Yang and his team are the first in China to build fully mechanized production lines for the bioconversion of organic solid waste by Black Soldier Fly into insect protein. Which also happens to have the added benefit of being 'two-low & two-high' as it is low investment, low energy consumption, high waste processing and having high economic value products.

Now, using Professor Yang's fully automated practical technology and equipment, the full automation of the Black Soldier Fly breeding process that is able to convert and process more than proportionate amounts of bio-organic waste into usable insect protein, fats and organic fertilizer within 8-10 days is a reality. This method of bioconversion is 100% 0 pollution and 0 emissions while being completely odourless and affluentless.

This series of scientific research and advancements has cemented Professor Yang as the foremost leader in the field of Black Soldier Fly research and innovation.

Muyuan Site Standard Bioconversion Equipment Workshop

Kitchen Waste bioconversion equipment at Shijiazhuang Site

“Good innovations need no marketing.”

China is home to the world's largest population, and the amount of organic waste (such as crop production & livestock feces) produced by the country collectively to feed its people is staggering. It is no wonder the country is attaching more emphasis on the importance of constructing an ecological civilization. With this in mind, Professor Yang and his team's research and development of Black Soldier Fly related technology is an invaluable achievement to solve a variety of societal issues; attracting the partnership & cooperation of many diverse kinds of companies seeking greener solutions.

At present, in China alone, there are many enterprises and institutions such as Henan Tanghe Jinhai Biotechnology Co., Ltd., Henan Dayong Group, Henan Muyuan Group, Sander Sanitation, and Xinmi City Kitchen Waste Management Centre that are affiliated with Professor Yang and his team.

In May of 2018, Professor Yang Sen was invited as a special guest to attend the 2nd International "Insects to Feed the World" Conference (IFW 2018) in Wuhan, China where he presented in English a report on Black Soldier Fly and Microbial cooperative technology and equipment application for livestock manure and kitchen waste bioconversion. His presentation caught the attention of experts from more than 30 countries in the audience.

2018, experts from the Turin University of Italy visited Nanyang BSF Site

Amongst these experts was German Black Soldier Fly expert Leo Wein who took the presentation to heart. At the time, Wein was conducting preliminary research on the large-scale breeding of Black Soldier Flies for the disposal of fruit waste in Malaysia. Wein found that Professor Yang's research fundamentally solved several major issues in Wein's own research and so expressed his intention for further co-operation.

In October of the same year, Wein made a trip to Henan Agricultural University to visit Professor Yang and his research team. During this short exchange, Wein became convinced that Professor Yang's methodology and tech was reliable; immediately recommending Professor Yang's team to the chairman of Lam Tak Singapore, Mr. James Wee.

September 2019, Prof. Yang was invited to a Malaysian BSF Production Site

During this time, Lam Tak company was eagerly looking for and preparing to invest in Black Soldier Fly technology for the specific use of bio-converting kitchen waste from Singapore and oil palm waste in Malaysia.

After a long and in-depth discussion, the two parties came to an agreement for the terms of contract. Professor Yang's team authorized the exclusive use of their technology in the 11 South East Asian countries by Lam Tak who paid an IP transferral fee of US$ 1.5 million dollars, or 10.63 million Yuan.

“Black Soldier Fly Gold”

All the experts who attended the 2nd International "Insects to Feed the World" Conference unanimously agreed that the industrial and ecological implications the application of the Black Soldier Fly larvae were tremendous.

According to Professor Yang's own calculations for the BSF industry: bioconversion utilizing the method that was extensively researched and developed by his team, it will cost nearly 30 thousand Yuan for every 1000 MT of solid kitchen waste processed, however, it can produce nearly 60 MT of high protein dried larvae, 300 MT of multifunctional biological organic fertilizer, with a direct profit of about 968,000 Yuan. Other than the monetary profits, the environmental pressure is greatly reduced compared to other traditional methods of waste processing.

The city of Zhengzhou produces about 260 thousand tons of kitchen waste every year. However, based on the above calculations of 660 thousand Yuan per 1000 MT of kitchen waste processed, the kitchen waste of Zhengzhou city alone can turn a profit of 170 million Yuan through using BSF bioconversion annual. Even with only 10% of the kitchen waste being processed in this manner, the city can make nearly 17 million Yuan in profits every year.

With such a significant turn in profits, it is not hard to imagine why even a Singaporean company would come all this way to Henan Agricultural University to lease this technology. Professor Yang Sen proudly declares that despite the authorization of IP transferral to South East Asia that the technology is still an innovation owned by China.

The news of a bug that sold for 10 million Yuan has been spreading like wildfire in China's Agricultural community and has drawn more attention to Professor Yang. Prof Yang, a Gen-Y Millennial has many qualities of a 'post-80s' Generation Chinese youth, who are known for their pragmatism, perseverance and their willingness to work hard. This is his sixth year with Henan Agricultural University and he has since become a pillar of the scientific research community in Henan. From hosting the National Life Sciences Foundation, presiding over 11 national and local projects, publishing more than 20 related articles, patenting 16 separate IP technologies all while juggling his duties as Associate Professor, Masters tutor, and being the deputy director of the School of Life Sciences, Professor Yang has been a busy man. It is hardly a surprise that he is known as the most hardworking lecturer in Henan Province Department of Education.

At Zhejiang Breeding Site

There are still endless research opportunities and scientific discoveries, and to quote Professor Yang: "The biological world is a treasure that was gifted to humans beings by nature. What I want is to diligently find the keys to unlocking more of these treasures, and let science and technology lead humanity into a better way of future!"

Original Article in Chinese can be found here.

Reporter:Zhou Hong Fei Editors: Sun Su’er, Guo Zhi Peng

Photos Courtesy of: Yang Sen, Guo Zhi Peng Translation: Akira Leong


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