As an alternative source of protein for animals and pets, you can’t beat the values present in insects. In particular, crickets. In fact, cricket farming is big business and you can start raising insects for profit very easily in your home. For a person or couple moving into retirement there is something to say about insect farming.
For example, the startup is minimal for crickets. All you basically need are two large plastic tubs. Punch holes in the tops and cover with screening. Add a water source such as a sponge in the bottom that you can keep moist and bits of fruit or vegetables as a food source. Put a few adult crickets in the container. Adult crickets are available for purchase at your local pet food store in lots of 100 or more.
Before you release them in the tub you intend to use for breeding you will need to lay out a shallow pan of topsoil and keep it moist. This is where the female crickets will lay their eggs. Eventually you will find what looks like bits of rice in the soil and they need to be removed from the breeding tub and placed into the second or incubating tub. A heater will help the eggs to hatch and once they become adults you can start the process over again.
Got a spare closet?
In a well organized home cricket farm you can rotate ‘crops’ within weeks of each other and use only the space of a spare closet. The adult crickets can be sold to local farmers as feed for cattle, poultry and many other animals. If there is an exotic pet owner in your area, crickets will prove to be the main source of dietary nutrients for that animal.
If crickets are not your thing you can raise black soldier flies. They feed off waste so you don’t need to provide any special diet and they breed in a cycle that could produce a rapid return on you startup costs of bins, heaters and screening. The flies will devour 90-percent of the waste they eat which makes them efficient eaters and once the larvae are harvested they are cooked, dried and pulverized into meal. Animal food pellets are what they end up as once mixed with other ingredients including soybeans, corn and vitamins/minerals.
Insect food products are used in the pet food industry, favored by organic farmers for animal feed and also used by zoos and wildlife preserves. Raising insects for profit includes not just animal feed interests. In the case of black soldier fly larvae, there is an oil they produce known as lauric acid and although the typical source for this is coconuts, nutritionists are looking to the alternative source to access this oil for the health benefits it possesses.
The interesting thing about raising insects for profit is that when you look at the pound-per-pound comparisons of insect feed versus other conventional choices and bugs truly are the better deal. For example, cattle produce roughly 20-pounds of useable protein per acre annually. Corn produces 225-pounds per acre with soybeans at over 500-pounds per acre. Insects, in a vertical factory design can produce 1.2-million pounds of useable protein per acre per year.
As an interesting sideline, cricket farming is becoming a bigger business with interest in human consumption of this powerful protein source. 80-percent of the world’s cultures are already using insects in their diet with crickets a popular choice followed by mealworms. Crickets are commonly consumed in North America mixed in flour and used in baking providing a protein rich alternative to the foods they create.
Plus, raising insects for profit in the human marketplace now includes protein bars, powders and snacks that are not just in the fitness world. This means the demand for the little critters continues to grow as fast as the average backyard cricket farm. It also means there is always room for the small scale two tub starter farms that can be easily set up and managed by a single person.
If you think having a fly in your soup is a bad thing, think again. That fly could be making you a bit of scratch on the side with little effort on your part which makes it a perfect opportunity for an extra income for anyone game for getting into the bug farming business.
Get started with a Google search for “cricket farming.” Another good resource is George Elliott’s ebook, “The Foodie Guide To Farming Insects For Protein,” available at the Amazon.com Kindle store.