by Mark Chillingworth

Innovating on the fly

Dec 17, 20122 mins
IT Leadership

One of the pleasures of being involved in the CIO community is seeing alternative thinking at work as organisations use technology to challenge their organisations and marketplaces. Innovation is a word used widely in this title and the CIO world and as many of you have expressed, innovation comes from many quarters, not just technology. It was along these lines that I was encouraged to read Jason Drew and Justine Joseph’s The Story of the Fly and how it could save the world. Drew was on BBC Radio 4 talking passionately and equally about the business and environmental opportunities the common fly has to offer. The pair are involved in AgriProtein, a business in South Africa that, as is so often the case, innovating by looking at the source code for inspiration. The source code in this example is the food stuff of the animals we all eat, namely fish and meat. 
AgriProteinfarm fly larvae that is dried and processed into a meal for chicken and fish farmers. The beauty of their business proposition is that in the wild fish and fowl live of exactly that, protein rich fly larvae they scratch up or catch. Yet of late farming has turned to using fishmeal products that as fish stocks deplete and oil prices rise are becoming very expensive. The project has gained the interest and backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. AgriProtein is not only a provider of a farm food source business, it’s also a waste disposal business as the larvae live off the waste from abattoirs and restaurants. 
The book spends 75 per cent of its time explaining the complex and connected relationship that has existed between mankind and flies since we both began to walk the planet and it calls for us to reappraise the place the fly has in our world from hated pest to saviour. The business and innovation story is by far the most interesting part of the story and in the last chapter. As the business grows and hopefully gains in reputation I hope the duo will return to writing and build on the last chapter to inspire other business leaders like them to really think differently about something, even if it’s as horrid as a fly, to create new enterprises and markets to meet the challenges ahead.