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Ideas

Career Day: The Cricket Farmer

By Schuyler Velasco

Darren Goldin is co-founder and head of farming operations for Entomo Farms, which raises crickets for human consumption. The crickets are ground into powder, then sold in products including protein bars and baked goods.

What was your career before you started farming bugs?
My younger brother and I started a business that manufactured percussion instruments. That closed down when the economy crashed after 9/11. Then we started Reptile Feeders, which produces insects for pets and zoos and rescue centers. We had been doing that for about eight years when we started Entomo Farms.

What was the inspiration for farming crickets as a human food source?
The biggest impetus was a U.N. report in 2013 on global food security. Insects have an incredible potential to sustainably feed 2 billion more people expected [on the planet] by 2050.

In response to someone saying, “That is gross,” I will remind them where steak and hamburger come from.

What’s your most persuasive line to get someone to taste a cricket?
If someone’s not interested, I don’t try too hard to convince them. But in response to someone saying, “That is gross,” I will remind them where steak and hamburger come from.

What’s the most interesting insect you’ve eaten?
A sakundry. It’s a very fatty, delicious insect. It tasted like bacon. It’s native to Madagascar but probably no one else outside the country has tasted it.

How much has the edible insect market grown since you got involved?
We launched in 2014, and at that point there wasn’t much of an industry. It was a handful of startups. But the growth has been tremendous. Here in Canada, Loblaws has a store brand called President’s Choice, and this spring they launched a pure cricket powder. That really legitimized the industry and created access to the product in a way that has never existed, certainly not in North America.

How is your farm set up?
We have three barns of about 20,000 square feet. Each houses 40 to 50 million crickets. It’s similar in setup to a chicken farm. Like chickens, our crickets take six weeks to harvest. One of the cool things about insect farming is we harvest them at the end of their natural life. Compare that to chickens, cows, and pigs — all those animals we eat as infants.

Describe a typical workday.
In the morning I meet with my manager, and we do a full walkthrough of the farming operation. Crickets are finicky, so we have to change things pretty frequently. Our goal always is to increase the density to drive down the cost. I spend a fair amount of time researching other types of farming and how they’ve mechanized and scaled.

What’s a weird tool you use for work?
The egg flats made for [industrial] chicken farmers and the partitions used in the wine industry. We use them both for growing the crickets on.

What’s for lunch?
I’m eating one of our partner’s cricket protein bars, CrickStart. It has 12 grams of protein.

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Schuyler Velasco is senior writer for Experience.

 

Illustration by Verónica Grech

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