By Hannah Johnson

    Alex Arnold, 34, and Phoebe Gardner, 28, are the co-founders of Bardee, an Ag’ Tech startup in Sunshine North that breaks down food waste using insects, converting it into fertiliser and proteins for pet foods and chicken feed. 

    Inspired by his early years on a South Australian farm, Alex saw how many insects there were and wondered what would happen if they could be used instead of just eradicated.  

    “Bardee produces proteins, fats, and fertilisers from food waste with insects and uses no additional water, hormones, or additives to replace unsustainable food sources being shipped across the globe”. 

    This world-first vertical farming system prevents food waste from turning into methane and recycles the nutrients back into the food system. 

    “Insects are nature’s most powerful upcyclers and are the missing link to reshape our food system,” said Bardee CEO and co-founder Phoebe Gardner. 

    By taking food waste and transforming it into high-quality insect protein & oil and organic fertiliser, Bardee have designed a circular process that’s good for the soil, good for the animals, and good for the planet. 

    Alex and Phoebe kicked off their idea in a Melbourne University carpark in 2019, grinding piles of rubbish into insect feed using a wood chipper from Bunnings.

    In just 24 months, Bardee have grown from a parking space at the University of Melbourne, to a 2,500sqm solar powered pilot facility called Moonbase, capable of processing 3,000 tonnes of food waste per year, offsetting 50 tonnes of carbon emissions per day.

    “Bardee’s technology has the potential to play a pivotal role in the transition to a sustainable circular economy where we avoid the devastating impacts of climate change.” 

    About Black Soldier Fly Larvae  

    Black Soldier Flies (BSFL) are incredible. They’re one of the best and most efficient waste recyclers in the insect world – their natural environment is cleaning up the forest floor and recycling it into new nutrients.

    BSF larvae can consume twice its weight in food each day, enabling it to grow to nearly an inch long and increase its weight by a factor of 10,000.

    The Black Soldier Fly (BSF) Frass (a nice word for manure) creates a nutrient-rich fertiliser which is packed with microbes and chitin, and the larvae themselves are a nutritious and sustainable protein source for animal feed.

    More about Frass

    BSF Frass is considered to be a powerful, ecological & cutting-edge commodity to the farming community. It is a well known broad-spectrum tool for the organic gardener, containing natural chemicals and beneficial microorganisms and nutritionally beneficial minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, nitrogen and more. 

    Increased production is one reason frass is extremely beneficial during the bloom stage of growth. Frass will encourage plant defense against problems such as powdery mildew, blight, fungus gnats and molds, to name but a few, as well as practically all insect assaults, including root destroying nematodes. 

    Scientific research has shown frass fertilisers result in: 

    • Increased crop yields 
    • Promotes rapid mineralization when applied to soil 
    • Supports plant growth superior to worm castings 
    • Contains natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties (is not a pesticide or fungicide) 
    • Destroys pathogens 
    • Will not harm beneficial insects or beneficial nematodes 

    About Bardee Superfly fertiliser

    Superfly is Bardee’s flagship fertiliser product, and is produced from 100% BSFL frass.

    Awarded certified organic status in 2021, as an input for organic products, and for use in gardening, Superfly’s NPK is 3.5 : 1.9 : 2.1 and provides balanced nutrition with quick and slow-release nutrients for healthier, more resilient, and faster-growing plants. It is a rich source of natural chitin, which comes from the exoskeletons of BSFL. 

    Scientific research has shown that chitin:

    • Accelerates germination, growth and increases seedling survival;
    • Prevents root rot and leads to less pathogenic fungi and nematodes in the soil;
    • Improves the proliferation of legume-rhizobia (symbiotic root nodules), supporting the higher capture of atmospheric N. 

    The presence of insect chitin triggers the activation of natural plant defences to grow thicker stalks and stems and produce natural toxins which fend off insects that feed on sap and leaves.

    Superfly boasts 240 million colony-forming microbes per gram, for healthy, well-structured soil and increased biodiversity. It also contains 10+ trace elements to support and accelerate plant growth.

    Why reshape the global food system? 

    To serve global demand, food production needs to double by 2050, and today’s agriculture and food systems are driving biodiversity collapse and climate change. According to a recent United Nations report, roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption each year, 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted. Much of that ends up in landfills, where it breaks down into methane, a greenhouse gas thirty times more potent than CO2. To feed 10 billion people and cut greenhouse gas emissions, we must rapidly scale new systems of sustainable food production. 

    Why is this important in Australia?

    Australia is a major food exporter reliant on importing phosphorus fertilisers from overseas mines. There is a finite amount of readily available phosphate rock to produce these fertilisers, but unlike fossil fuels, there is no substitute. That’s because phosphorus is an essential element needed for protein, fat and DNA – every living thing needs it to survive. Without using technology to recycle phosphorus and other nutrients into the food system, we will inevitably jeopardise our food supply. Bardee recycles food waste nutrients into protein and organic fertiliser with insects.

    How it works

    Bardee collects food waste from restaurants, cafe’s, and other commercial facilities, overwise destined for landfill. 

    The food waste is processed into an optimised feed for black soldier fly larvae

    The larvae grow three thousand times in size and produce 1.5 times their weight in frass, in less than seven days. During this time 100% of the food waste is consumed by the larvae.

    Bardee’s technology ensures that only CO2, ammonia and water evaporation from heat and respiration are produced, and methane emissions are prevented.

    The Frass is refined into a high-quality organic certified fertiliser with twice the plant nutrients as best practice compost and two hundred times more beneficial microbes.

    Every tonne of food waste diverted from landfill with Bardee produces 350kgs of nutrient-rich organic Superfly fertiliser. Every kilo of fertiliser offsets 5 kilos of CO2. 

    You can find out more about their products and shop online at

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