Monitoring Nature’s Wonder Workers
Finally, someone has found a good use for pesky flies—let them eat manure! The BBB company (Biomass Biotechnology Bio) in the Chiba prefecture near Tokyo, Japan, has developed a technology that uses fly larvae to convert manure from pigs and other farm animals into organic fertilizer and high-protein fish food. And they are using the Cogent DataHub running on a cloud server to provide real-time monitoring of their production powerhouse—swarms of flies.
The process is quite simple. BBB keeps thousands of specially bred flies in captivity, collects their eggs, and sells them to local pork farmers. The farmers put the fly eggs on their pig manure, and when they hatch, the fly larvae feed off the manure. Enzymes in the larvae saliva break down the manure into rich, organic fertilizer, doing the job in one week that normally takes up to four months using conventional composting techniques. When the larvae are finished, they don’t need to be separated from the finished fertilizer—they crawl out by themselves, seeking a dry environment. At this point, before they can turn into flies, the larvae are collected, dried, and processed as fish food.
There is an English-language video of the whole BBB process which was produced by the Japanese news agency NHK and is available for viewing on the Internet.
The benefits of producing fertilizer from waste material this way are substantial, but until recently costs have been high. The company plans to expand their services to large numbers of farms, and to do so they need an inexpensive, automated way to monitor their production environment. Unlike most of us who use window screens to keep flies out, BBB has special screened rooms to keep flies in. To ensure the flies stay healthy and lay large numbers of eggs, the air temperature and humidity in these rooms must be maintained at optimal levels, and monitored around the clock.
To automate the monitoring, Cogent and their partner, Nissin Systems Co. Ltd of Kyoto Japan, provided a real-time, cloud-based system using the Cogent DataHub® and WebView™. At the BBB facility they installed a Wi-Fi-enabled environmental sensor module from TOA Musendenki to measure the temperature and humidity, and connected it directly to a Cogent DataHub running on a cloud server. Using WebView, they then created a monitoring page to track key environmental variables such as temperature and humidity in the flies’ living quarters.
“Monitoring our system on the web is very convenient,” said Mr. Yamaguchi, President of BBB. “We have been able to reduce our costs significantly, which will be even more important as we expand our operation.”