Innovative, eco-friendly North Bay farm may not survive a recent fire

A North Bay farm is struggling to make ends meet after a fire tore through its facilities on Sunday. 

The Sunday morning fire did as much as $6 million in damage to Protein Products, LLC, an innovative, environmentally friendly farm based in Petaluma that raises fly larvae, turning them into food and fertilizer.

"The larvae will come in and eliminate whatever goes into the landfill and convert that into a positive protein source for chickens, birds, swine and even cats and dogs," said Maximo Mendoza, a partner at Protein Products, LLC.

In other words, the farm feeds industrial, restaurant and even home food scraps to the larvae, who grow in the scraps as they graze. 

Workers then harvest the larvae, turning into a variety of feeds that can be found in Petaluma's Rivertown Feed & Pet Country Store. 

"We call it a closed loop sustainable cycle," Mendoza said. 

Another bonus: in that process, the larvae excrements are harvested and made into plant fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Black soldier fly larvae has many uses in agriculture, but it's also widely used to provide feed for animals and pets.

It's sometimes served to humans as well. 

"In Europe, it has already been approved for human consumption in the form of cookies or ice cream, believe it or not. [The flies] taste like sunflower seeds. Very high in protein, very high in calcium," Mendoza said.

But without adequate fire insurance, the farm may have to fold, forcing its 25 employees to look for work elsewhere.

Mendoza is trying to acquire small business loans, environmental grants or eco-minded investors who may want to help save the farm.

"I have often heard that God helps those who help themselves, so we're very hardworking, dedicated to the project out of here in Petaluma and the North Bay," said Mendoza.

Worldwide, insects have been eaten for centuries by humans and are a part of many staple diets. More food competition often lowers overall food prices.