Cricket Farmer Highlights the Potential of Insect Ag

Madison Cricket Farm founder and insect agriculture consultant Kevin Bachhuber gives Tera the full rundown on raising bugs for human food, animal feed and other niche markets.

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #95, Tera sits down with Kevin Bachhuber, founder of Bachhuber Consulting and Madison Cricket Farm to learn about the emergent industry of insect agriculture and its potential for pet food, human food and so much more.

Kevin, quite simply, is a cricket guy. Inspired by a 2013 United Nations report advising the world to eat more insects, he started Big Cricket Farms, the nation’s first FDA-inspected human food–grade cricket-growing operation. With this pioneering venture, Kevin helped carve out the federal regulatory framework and built deep relationships with fellow insect farmers. He ran that business for two years, until unforeseen circumstances forced its shutdown.

Then in 2016, Kevin launched Bachhuber Consulting, a niche agency dedicated to insect agriculture and related systems. Leveraging his first-hand expertise and industry relationships, he offers advice, technical assistance and training to insect growers nationwide. Recently, Kevin caught the farming bug again and, this past January, opened his own operation, which raises and sells bandit crickets into the live feed market, with a focus on pet store owners.

Crickets have a super speedy lifecycle, so they multiply fast. This allowed Madison Cricket Farm to break even in less than two months and scale up very quickly, recently relocating from a 700-sqare-foot facility to a 3,000-square-foot home base. Still, the business has a long way to grow. Kevin says a mature cricket farm typically has 100,000 to 250,000 square feet of rearing space—the size of two city blocks! He’s unsure whether he’ll want to get that big, or maybe go bigger. Since there’s a lot of unmet need in the Upper Midwest, he says the first step is sizing out that market.

Next, Kevin and Tera discuss the human food market, which Madison Cricket Farm isn’t ready to explore yet, partly due to its relatively small footprint. But also, the live feed industry yields higher margins and isn’t easily disrupted by cheap cricket powders from overseas like the human food market is.

Still, if and when Americans embrace eating protein-packed insects, likely for sustainability reasons, there will be ample opportunities for Kevin’s company. He can see maybe collaborating on product development in the future, but he knows his expertise and passion lie in the production side. For now, he’s most interested in growing his bug population, optimizing processes and exploring full-cycle agriculture, such as selling cricket poop to vegetable growers.

Along with the endless possibilities with cricket farming, there continue to be challenges, namely finding suitable facilities and navigating the murky regulatory environment. But Kevin, with his unique knowledge and eagerness to learn, build and test out new things, is certainly set up to succeed.