60 tonnes of maggots: Olympia Yarger's vision for feeding our nation's fish
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60 tonnes of maggots: Olympia Yarger's vision for feeding our nation's fish

Could there be anything more Canberra than feeding your backyard chooks fresh maggots raised on Ona Coffee grounds?

It's about to become a reality.

Olympia Yarger, Managing Director, Goterra. Olympia has started her own innovative agriculture business - hoping to raise millions of maggots.

Olympia Yarger, Managing Director, Goterra. Olympia has started her own innovative agriculture business - hoping to raise millions of maggots.Credit:Karleen Minney

Canberra entrepreneur Olympia Yarger has rented a warehouse in Fyshwick, built a maze of temperature-controlled rooms inside and is about to join only of a handful of innovators across the world redefining the world's approach to chicken and fish feed.

Goterra is a true start-up in every sense - mum Louise sewed all the covers for the fly aviaries, brother Kon did all of the electrical work at the warehouse and husband Eric picks up food waste and delivers it to Fyshwick to feed to the maggots.

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Olympia won a $30,000 ACT Innovation Connect grant in a recent funding round to "prove the concept of how we believe we'll be able to farm maggots here in Canberra."

Olympia won a $30,000 ACT Innovation Connect grant in a recent funding round to "prove the concept of how we believe we'll be able to farm maggots here in Canberra."Credit:Karleen Minney

"It's not a start-up in the traditional sense," Olympia said.

"But we are well and truly at the forefront of innovating sustainable feed in Australia, and we're proud to be doing it from here in Canberra."

Olympia's vision for Goterra is simple: producing live larvae for chicken and fish feed. She'll launch as a supplier for Canberra's backyard chooks and pet fish later this year, and then look to secure a contract with a major aquaculture farm like Snowy Mountain Trout Farm.

She uses only black soldier flies - which she first caught in traps across the ACT and now raises in aviaries in Fyshwick - to produce the larvae, as they're cleaner and "aren't vectors for human disease the way blow flies are".

The fly aviaries are the handiwork of Olympia's mum, Louise.

The fly aviaries are the handiwork of Olympia's mum, Louise.Credit:Karleen Minney

The ACT Government is backing her in a major way - she won a $30,000 ACT Innovation Connect grant in a recent funding round to "prove the concept of how we believe we'll be able to farm maggots here in Canberra".

"It's been an awesome process - the government's been supportive and very involved in providing feedback," Olympia said.

"It's nice to be supported that way, especially because we're agriculture and Canberra's not necessarily known for being ag - so they've invested in us and that really shows how innovative they're prepared to be in looking for new ways to solve Canberra's waste problem."

Olympia's maggots eat food waste from a range of Canberra businesses, including grounds from Ona Coffee and a recent delivery of navy beans from a local delicatessen. ACT Smart Waste is also a supplier.

"What we hope to establish here in Canberra is a commercialised operation that's going to sustainably recycle Canberra's food waste into feed for fish and chickens," she said.

"So we'll be taking scraps from tables, pre-consumer food waste, all the rotten stuff that nobody can do anything with."

And how do people respond when she says she's in the business of maggots?

"Most people - once we explain it - are like 'that is the coolest thing I've ever heard," she said.

"Everybody's so into sustainability these days that if you take the time to explain what you're doing, they ultimately love the concept."

Bree Element is the life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times

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