- Well, everybody loves Salmon.
(water running) They look like fish.
What does salmon mean in the Pacific Northwest?
- I think it's a very iconic, romantic, placeholder for people.
It represents the connection between the mountains, the sea, the rivers in between, and all creatures that inhabit this area.
And really we're at a threshold right now with our wild population suffering population growth, being over-harvested, having degraded habitat.
There's too many mouths to be fed and not enough fish in the water.
(water splashing) I'm Joy Waltermire.
I'm the Steelhead Biologist for Long Live The Kings.
And our mission is to restore wild runs of salmon, and support sustainable fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.
- So what's different about this organization than other hatcheries?
- [Joy] We're really just working with depleted runs of fish that are either listed on the endangered species act or at some critical point of their population levels.
Some of the science that we're involved with is looking into alternative ways to use hatcheries more as emergency room.
Other ways is looking at how we feed our fish.
A third of the ocean harvest, total, goes to making fish meal.
That's not including the byproducts that comes from all the other harvest that's going on out there.
And that's millions of metrics tons of fish.
And there, a lot of them are these feeder fish so its really taking sort of the bottom of the food chain and completely throwing it out of whack in the name of releasing salmon that can go out to these fisheries.
So the goal being, using meal worms can supplement potentially up to half of that.
- You can pick up that carrot there.
- Alright, I've never stuck my hand in a bucket full of meal worms before.
- [Virginia] Welcome to our everyday.
- Wow, whoa.
(laughing) I know it's not gross, but it's sort of a little gross.
So you're replacing fish meal with bugs?
- [Virginia] Yes.
- [Katie] Okay.
- My name's Virginia Emery.
I am the founder of Beta Hatch.
We are Washington's first insect farm.
- Alright, what exactly is an insect farm?
- Yeah, so when you think about a farm usually you think about outside, rows of dirt, irrigation.
- So we farm mealworms.
They are a type of beetle.
They are also known as the darkling beetle because they like to be in the dark.
And we can grow them inside year round with pretty much no light and virtually no water.
And how did you get into bug farming?
Do you come from a long line of insect farmers?
(Virginia laughing) - There are only a handful of multi-generational bug farmers out there.
- So how many bugs does your farm have?
- Well we don't count them, but it's definitely on the order of billions.
We produce at a minimum two million eggs every time that we harvest eggs from our adults.
- Seems like naming them all would be a little bit of a problem.
There's Fred over there.
- Fred 1, Fred 2, Fred 2000.
- And how is this better than fishmeal?
What, does it produce less waste?
Or what's sort of the advantage of using bugs instead of meal?
- So the farm has virtually no waste.
We give them agricultural byproducts or co-products.
These are organic material and so they will take that feed, transform it into their biomass so it becomes insects, and then it also becomes frass.
Frass is the technical term for insect manure.
And it makes a great fertilizer.
- It's a poop sifter.
- [Virginia] Yes.
There's almost no crop on the planet that you can produce year around that consistently.
- Right now I am separating the mealworms from their poop.
- You could say you are harvesting the poop.
- I am a poop harvester.
- [Virginia] Most of the crops that we use to feed our animals, we grow just once a year.
So this is completely sort of turning on it's head the supply chain of how we think about feeding animals and feeding our soils.
- Oh wiggly.
(water running) - We have two groups.
One's a control group that has been fed fish pellets their whole life.
The other is one that's just been fed 100% mealworm.
So we will be able to see how the mealworm group starts to feed.
What we have today are rainbow trout so they're not actually salmon, and they are about two years old.
Fish pellets drop down to the bottom of the tank where these freeze dried mealworms that we get actually float.
So just the activity of the fish feeding is a lot more active than what you might see in the wild.
- So what's your ideal vision of the future?
- Well, ideally I will put myself out of a job and the rivers will be filled with fish spawning in numbers that can support both their natural runs and a healthy ecosystem.
Ideally, we can have these self-sustaining runs that will be thriving far beyond my children's children.
- It's shaking it's butt.
I think I might have squished it.
- [Narrator] This program is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.