Gianna Bonis-Profumo

Gianna Bonis-Profumo

By Gianna Bonis-Profumo 

Are you a young researcher focusing on food and sustainability issues?

If so, be aware of the BCFN YES! research funding opportunity for the 2017 round! Not only can you win almost AU$30,000 for your research (20,000€), but also present your project to worldwide experts in Italy and attend the annual International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan.

BCFN YES! is a research grant competition open to worldwide researchers under the age of 35 working on their PhD or Post-Doc, with topics aimed at building a more sustainable agri-food system, considering environmental, social, health and/or economic aspects.   

Of the entries submitted, the ten best projects receive the opportunity to present their research ideas to a specialist jury composed of international experts in the food, nutrition and sustainability space. For each project, up to three researchers are flown to Italy to compete for the research grant, where you are required to do a TED talk style presentation of your research project. If you feel nervous about this, fear not, as a coach will advise you with great tips and feedback on your oral performance and presentation structure.

Networking is also a key component of the BCFN YES! event, as finalists participate in dinners with renowned world experts that compose the board, jury and speakers at the Forum, while also connecting with other like-minded researchers from, literally, around the planet. The personality list is impressive, with Nobel-Prize laureates, directors of UN agencies and international NGOs, leading academics and industry representatives.

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Figure 2. Gianna making her pitch at BCFN YES! 2014

I was very lucky to win the 2014 edition, which has enabled me to further my project idea in Timor-Leste, focused on empowering women in agriculture to prevent malnutrition sustainably. Not only did I have a fantastic personal experience in the land of exquisite food culture but also I had the opportunity to strengthen my professional skills. Having to frame the presentation as a pitch, synthesising the project in seven minutes (yes, only seven!) and make it understandable to an audience that knew nothing about it, were huge and rewarding challenges.

This is my third year attending the Forum in Northern Italy, now as the BCFN Alumni Oceania geographic representative. All BCFN YES! finalists become part of the Alumni association, a space for exchange and sharing where our ideas and abilities can be nourished and have visibility within BCFN channels. This also enables opportunities for training as well as collaboration on projects promoted by the Foundation. Thus, by participating, you could also be part of a permanent laboratory for students, researchers, and young people interested in issues regarding food and sustainability.

Finally, the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation is a think tank created in 2009 to analyse the overarching themes of global food and nutrition. It studies the economic, scientific, social, and environmental factors and their cause-effect relationship with food using a multidisciplinary approach. Apart form the grant, the BCFN promotes science-based information with a strong focus on sustainable diets, and has generated concepts such as the Double Food/Environmental Pyramid model - a tool to relate the nutritional aspect of food with its environmental impact.

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Further information on their work, submission dates and to subscribe to their newsletter click here .

Gianna’s profile at RIEL – Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, CDU


Ever since I heard about the Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) in an aquaponics course years ago, I thought about their potential as a sustainable form of livestock feed in the developing world.

Why? Well, because the larvae of the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) is able to convert organic waste into high quality animal protein that can be used a supplementary feed for fish and chickens. And by organic waste I mean food scraps, vegetable residues, manure and offal, which they are very efficient at bio-converting into a valuable resource.

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Picture: Chickens at Common2Us Farm eating veggies scraps

Yet, their most impressive feature is their self-harvest capability. When the larvae reaches maturity, it is genetically programmed to climb out of its food source, providing a great opportunity for designing a container for their collection. A simple box with drainage and a ramp that allows the BSFL to crawl up - while cleaning itself - and drop into a receptacle, does the trick.

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Picture: Setting up the BioPod Plus to grow Black Soldier Fly Larvae fed with food scraps and chicken manure

Other advantages of this insect include their lack of odour and dry touch - they are not slimy; absence of mouthparts in their fly form - they won´t eat human food; harmlessness - they don’t sting; and most important, they are safe - they are not associated in any way with the transmission of disease nor considered pests. Moreover, the flies act as a deterrent of the common housefly greatly reducing their number, and thrive on hot environments such as the tropics.

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Picture: Some BSFL devouring an avocado peel

Black Soldier Fly Larvae are considered one of the most promising species for chicken and fish feed due to their nutritional content and ability to be fed with pig and chicken manures, up-cycling these abundant waste products. Dried black soldier fly pre-pupae contain 42% protein and 35% fat as well as adequate amino acids and minerals for livestock feed, whereas live pre-pupae consist of 44% dry matter and can easily be stored for long periods.

As a component of a complete diet, they have been found to support good growth in chicks, and studies also show their suitability as replacement for soybean meal in poultry feed. Since chickens need energy, protein, minerals and vitamins in their diet, insects in general and BSFL in particular have the potential to supplement that component of their dietary requirements in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

Which leads to why I think BSFL present an incredible opportunity for supporting small livestock systems in developing countries which tend to be managed by women. Because breeding BSFL as supplementary chicken feed can enhance egg productivity while ensuring their nutritional-density sustainably, thus supporting food and nutrition security outcomes for poor households. This is partly what the Food and Nutrition Hub project is about, which I am about to start implementing in Timor-Leste.

Prior my departure I have been testing the BioPod Plus system and feeding the BSFL to our chickens at Common2Us Farm, where I lived for the last 9 months. I encourage you to browse YouTube videos where you can see different systems in action and the frenziness with which they breed. Yet, of course, anyone who has raised chickens knows how much they love insects. Wait until you see them devouring the Black Soldier Fly Larvae!

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Picture: Our ladies devouring the BSFL after tipping the collector receptacle

For further information on the project Gianna is working on, visit or read about it in a webinar hosted by the Food Tank recently.

Twitter: @GiannaBonis @FNHub_Timor

By Gianna Bonis-Profumo, 15 Oct 2015