YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) — A Wisconsin native has opened a business in Youngstown, but it’s not a bar, restaurant or retail shop.
It is a warehouse near Star Supply on Mahoning Avenue, close to downtown, where crickets are being raised for humans to eat. That’s right, edible crickets.
The business is called Big Cricket Farms and none of the company’s major players are from the Youngstown area.
The company’s founder, Kevin Bachhuber, 29, is from Wisconsin. He was introduced to eating dried crickets during a 2006 visit to Thailand, which got him thinking about bringing the idea to America.
He spent last year researching and decided to start his cricket farm in a Rust Belt city. He toured five of them and chose Youngstown.
“I have really enjoyed meeting the people, especially the people at the Youngstown Business Incubator, the Kitchen Incubator and the Younsgtown Neighborhood Development Corp. It’s really cool to meet a group of really motivated people and to be able to mesh and do a lot of work with them,” Bachhuber said.
The crickets are hatched from eggs and spend their first 20 days in bins stored in insulated tents. They are then transferred to troughs piled high with egg crates.
The crickets are given water and fed a grain mixture, with vegetables and fruit added toward the end.
After about 50 days, they are harvested, frozen and sold to a Georgia company, where they will be made into flour.
They also could be dried and eaten.
“If you feed them a lot of grain, they tend to taste a little more like walnuts or some other nut. If you feed them a lot more kelp or seaweed in their diet, they will get a distinctly shrimpy taste,” Bachhuber said.
Bachhuber has 12 people working for him, including Cody Shultz, who is a friend from college. They reconnected through Facebook in a conversation that included this line:
“Why crickets? And then I got the whole spiel on protein. He said ‘don’t knock them until you try them’,” Shultz said.
The warehouse, which is kept at a constant 85 to 90 degrees, currently holds 500,000 crickets, but they plan to have 50 million crickets at time.
They are sold for about $4.50 per pound.
The operation has been up and running only since April. In fact, the whole edible insect industry is in its infancy.
There are not even any regulations, which Bachhuber said is scary.
“Because if somebody got sick from somebody else’s crickets, it could really hurt the industry as a whole. So we are definitely trying to make sure that there is some body of legislation,” he said.