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Questions About Cricket Farming

EDN 148 features an article on cricket farming. In this post, I address some questions that our writing team had as that article took shape. The information below is the result of my own literature search. If you have firsthand experience raising crickets for human or animal consumption, your input—by replying to this post—is welcome and much appreciated. More ideas for low-cost materials and techniques would be helpful.

What is the dry cricket and protein yield of a grow bin of 8,000 to 10,000 crickets?
This was the quantity per grow bin (150 cm long x 61 cm wide x 66 cm high) that was presented in the section of the EDN article on cricket farming from a commercial perspective. Recognizing that others might choose to rear in smaller bins, Table 1 gives numbers for a range of numbers, starting with 1000 crickets. With the crickets dried, you could expect 561 to 701 g of protein. The minimum daily protein requirement for an adult is 0.8 g per kg of body weight (WHO, 2007). This means that, for a person weighing 60 kg, 8,000 crickets provides 100% of their protein requirement for 11 days and half of their requirement for 22 days.

What is the cost of a cricket farm, and how much profit is expected?
Cost varies with materials and feeds used. Kinyuru (2019) estimates that it is possible to start raising crickets—in a 0.6 x 0.9 m box—for as little as KSh (Kenyan shilling) 3000 (≈USD 28); this level of cricket farming is often done simply for personal consumption. Table 2 summarizes cost and income information for several larger-scale cricket farms in Thailand.

What are some other feed options, besides those mentioned in EDN 148?
In some places, chicken feed is unavailable and/or expensive. In Kenya, Oloo et al. (2020) found that kale (Brassica oleracea var. ocephala) leaves and sweet potato (lpomoea batatas) vines were cheaper alternatives to chicken feed; these were already being used by farmers in the study region, along with banana peels and ugali leftovers. They also mention moringa (Moringa oleifera) and amaranth (Amaranthus sp.) leaves as nutritious, local feed options.

What other media besides coconut coir will crickets lay eggs in?
Alternatives include a mix of rice husks and sand (Hanboonsong et al., 2013) and cotton wool (Kinyuru, 2019).

Are there alternatives to chicken waterers for providing crickets with moisture?
Chicken waterers are easy to work with. Using a small water bottle, it is possible to make your own version of a chicken waterer (see a YouTube video entitled “How to Make a Bird Water Feeder”). Moist cloth or sponge can be used as long as these are not allowed to dry out.

Are there other habitat options besides egg flats?
Crickets need hiding places, and egg flats are the most commonly used material for that. As mentioned earlier, empty toilet paper rolls also work. I have tried stacking short pieces of PVC pipe; they are washable but probably only practical for one or two small bins. If you have seen other materials used successfully, please let us know.

Besides being high in protein, what are some other nutritional advantages of crickets?
Protein content of crickets, at 64% to 72% dry weight (Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013; Udomsil et al., 2019), compares well to that of beef (40% dry weight) and chicken (55% dry weight) (Ghosh et al., 2017). Cricket protein contains all essential amino acids, and crickets are also rich in healthy fats (Udomsil et al., 2019).

What are some ways to overcome the aversion that many people have to eating crickets?
As Martin mentioned in the EDN article, converting dried crickets to flour is one approach. Using it as animal feed is another. Names of cricket-related products should also be considered.

What are some setbacks commonly encountered in farming crickets?
As with anything, cricket farming takes patience and practice. Table 3 addresses a few problems you may encounter.


Figure 1. Male (left) and female (right) cricket. Note the red arrow indicating the ovipositor on the female cricket. Source: Tim Motis

What is the easiest way to distinguish between male and female crickets?
Female crickets develop an ovipositor at the end of their abdomen that they use for egg laying (Figure 1). Males have no ovipositor.

What are some differences between house and two-spotted field crickets?
House (Acheta domesticus) and two-spotted field (Gryllus bimaculatus) crickets seem to be the two most commonly farmed species. Two-spotted field crickets are black, and grow a little larger than house crickets, but house crickets are often preferred as the best tasting.

References

Finke, M.D., 2002. Complete nutrient composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores. Zoo Biology 21: 269-285.

Ghosh, S., S.-M. Lee, C. Jung, and V.B. Meyer-Rochow. 2017. Nutritional composition of five commercial edible insects in South Korea. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 20(2): 686-694.

Hanboonsong Y., T. Jamjanya, and P.B. Durst. 2013. Six-legged livestock: edible insect farming, collection and marketing in Thailand. FAO.

Kinyuru, J.N. 2019. Guide to rearing and farming crickets in Kenya. YouTube video.

Oloo, J.A., M. Ayieko and J.M. Nyongesah. 2020. Food Science and Nutrition 8:69-78.

Rumpold, B.A. and O.K. Schlüter. 2013. Potential and challenges of insects as an innovative source for food and feed production. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies 17:1-11

Sorjonen, J.M., A. Valtonen, E. Hirvisalo, M. Karhapää, V.J. Lehtovaara, J. Lindgren et al. 2019. The plant-based by-product diets for the mass-rearing of Acheta domesticus and Gryllus bimaculatus . PLos ONE 14(6) e0218830.

Udomsil, N., S. Imsoonthornruksa, C. Gosalawit, and M. Ketudat-Cairns. 2019. Nutritional values and functional properties of house cricket (Acheta domesticus) and field cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Food Science and Technology Research 25(4): 597-605.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2007. Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. WHO Technical Report Series no. 935.