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Most ecologic and economic way to farm 1 T crickets per year?

Hello entomophagy friends,

First off, I'm a business student on the way of doing a business plan for my entrepreneurship course on producing my own crickets and then transforming them into cricket flour. I need the help of some experts or people who already farm their crickets. I have e-mailed many companies, but they are not very open to share information, or don't answer to my questions.... I don't know if they are scared, but it is kind of sad. Whatsoever, I'm not like that and I'm open to share all information researched at the end of my paper, which I believe might help many people who go through this forum.

For the moment, I'm focused on the production of the crickets and I leave the transformation into cricket flour for the end.

Thus, lets take an example of a cricket production of 1 T's per year. If we say one harvesting cycle is 3 month, then we have 4 in one year = 250 kg's of cricket per cycle.

In order to reach that goal, what would be the most ecologic and economic choice of habitat (concrete block, cylinder etc?) ?

How many male and female crickets do I need to start with in order to reach the objective?

How many square meters as a building would be needed to fit in the cricket habitats?

What would be the cost to maintain, clean, and feed with a healthy diet this scale of production?

In a cold country, what would be the most economic heating method to maintain an ideal temperature in the habitats? (heating lamps, or other methods??)

How much fertilizer would the crickets in such a production scale produce?

Thank you very much in advance.

Comments

  • edited October 2015

    Hi Emanuel,

    I'll gladly help you! Where are you from by the way?

    In order to reach that goal, what would be the most ecologic and economic choice of habitat (concrete block, cylinder etc?) ?

    Go for plastic boxes for such a small amount of crickets. Concrete pens are for tons per month kind of systems.

    How many male and female crickets do I need to start with in order to reach the objective?

    I designed a rule of thumb based on literature: 40 grams (~100 in number) of subadult crickets per 1000 grams of aimed daily production capacity. Sex ratios are around 50:50 and there is no point whatsoever in picking them by hand, unless you want to spend a lot of private time with them haha.

    How many square meters as a building would be needed to fit in the cricket habitats?

    Optimum space requirements are 2,5cm2 per cricket, weighing 0,45(ish) grams each. So if you know bin size you can calculate from there. Keep into account rooms like storage, cleaning, processing, broodstock and incubation.

    What would be the cost to maintain, clean, and feed with a healthy diet this scale of production?

    No idea, haven't worked this out yet :) Probably not a lot with the right diet.

    In a cold country, what would be the most economic heating method to maintain an ideal temperature in the habitats? (heating lamps, or other methods??)

    Probably heating by gas (you should take a look at mushroom growers, they have good equipment for insect rearing). Or you can use electric fans (but only if you use solar power)

    How much fertilizer would the crickets in such a production scale produce?

    Haven't calculated this yet as well. But, if crickets have a wet weight ECI of over 90%, then I can roughly estimate this won't be more then 100 kg fertilizer per 1000 kg insects.

    Hope it's of help :)

    Edit: why only 1 T per year by the way? That's really small scale stuff, we need bulking companies! :)

  • Entojesse, first of all thank you very much for your time and answers :).

    I completely agree with you that the production scale I mentioned is very small, but it is only in order to stay simple and gather the information needed in order to make realistic assumptions for a 10 to 15 times bigger production scale.

  • Hello, has anybody had any luck figuring out the basic costs involved in farming crickets on a large scale? The main costs I am looking into are labor (and time) and feed costs (dried feed). Another example: what is a ball park cost of farming 1 pound of crickets (large scale). Any help is greatly appreciated.

  • Hi Dominique, - If you feed "house" Acheta crickets 5 parts of "starter" classification chicken feed + 1 part of rice bran + 5% (of those dry ingredients) active dry yeast by weight & rear them at a density of 1 cricket per 5.25 square centi-meters (at 27-31*Celsius within the range of 52-81% humidity) then 30 days after hatching each cricket can weigh approximately 160-175 mg. & at 37 days after hatching approximately 300 - 325 mg. each. If you are trying to assess edible content then figure 80% of the fresh weight of the "house" cricket is edible.

    On this diet the feed conversion ratio is 1.34 for the fresh total weight of a cricket. However, if you wish to develop a model for an actual edible "house" cricket salable product use a feed conversion ratio of 1.68 (ie: you give 1.68 mg food to get 1 mg edible tidbit of Acheta cricket). If you rear hatchlings in a batch then take into account the uneaten food left after they are harvested & their food conversion ratio is inferior at 1.47 for fresh wt. & 1.84 for edible wt.

    You'll have to do the math for determining how much starter poultry feed costs you, the price of rice bran & active dry yeast if wish to scale up from this data. As for labor & time: paid labor would be the biggest expense once you have built the installation. If you want to scale down the operational facility then definitely do not dedicate less than 2.5 sq.cm. per cricket. ((Bear in mind the above data is specific for the stated area per "house" cricket and feedstock diet. Source = 2015 "Crickets Are Not a Free Lunch: Protein Capture from Scalable Organic Side-Streams via High-Density Populations of Acheta domesticus"; http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118785#pone.0118785.ref008. If you use a variation of poultry feed diet for them & also dedicate 14.4 sq.cm per "house" cricket you might get a better feed conversion ratio of 1.36 for edible weight. See 1991 "Comparison of Diets for Mass-Rearing Acheta domesticus (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) as a Novelty Food, and Comparison of Food Conversion Efficiency with Values Reported for Livestock"; http://jee.oxfordjournals.org/content/84/3/891))

  • Hi Gringojay, may I ask what your opinion is on rearing densities for crickets? I think 2,5 cm2 per cricket is quite alright; mortality rates are OK and growth is good (according to Patton 1978 at least). With this density and other variables, my output calculations come down to around 40kg cricket/m2, but if boxes are stacked up to three high, this becomes 120 kg cricket/m2. Using 5,25 to even 14,4 cm2/cricket seems like a waste of space to me.

  • HI EntoJesse, Although crickets apparently do well enough reared in high density there may be issues which don't readily become apparent; there variables which may become an issue involving choosing trade offs. Crowded larval populations are known to create changes in how the sexes morphology (sexual di-morphism) evolve; this can be things like size, coloration, wings, etc. A number of more nuanced leads are also suggested in (2012) "The juvenile social environment introduces variation in the choice and expression of sexually selected traits"; free full text = http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.230/full

    One factor that may become relevant is how certain naturally produced chemical compounds are expressed in different ratios when crickets are reared in crowded conditions. For example the biological amines 5-hydroxy-trypt-amine in the corpra allata is greater at higher densities, as is octop-amine in the corpora cardiaca; this leads to more juvenile hormone being around when it is supposed to actually subside for the transition out from last instar to occur. Different amines' proportions induced by crowding create lower larval weights, slower time to reach their last instar & since higher density lowers dop-amine levels in general this fosters more aggression in the colony members.

    If (& I am not sure this always happens) the predominant male size becomes small from generations of instars reared at high density then the female mating with small males, as opposed to mating with large males, in one kind of non-diapausing cricket (which may or may not apply to the cricket variety you raise) then several factors come into play. These factors may be of interest for commercial productivity & although this is an uncertain extrapolation to "house" crickets" I'll summarize the issues.

    Faster developing larvae will gain weight faster; faster larval development leads to lower deaths before that cricket becomes capable of reproduction & thus that better survivorship equates to a greater number of adults in the colony. Furthermore, both the male & female offspring crickets of a mother cricket mated with a larger male cricket will be +/- 3% larger than if the offspring's paternal cricket was smaller.

    Although the % of offspring hatched will be higher when a female mates with a smaller male, & she might even produce more eggs, the female which mated with a larger male will have more progeny that actually survive through all instars. And in this context the offspring of a female mated with a larger male will be quicker to emerge (eclose) as adults. See Figures/Tables in (1987) "Female choice contributes to offspring fitness in the field cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus"; Behav Ecol Sociobiol 21:313 321

    In light of the above I'd suggest selecting the larger males that develop in a densely reared cricket colony & trying to deliberately cull out the smaller males. Also in the context of size relationship see (1997) "Female house crickets, Acheta domesticus, prefer the chirps of large males"; published in Association of Animal Behavior, 54 whose author makes the observations " ... large males are more symmetrical and have greater longevity under laboratory conditions ... size is heritable in ... A. domesticus ... larger male ... produce larger spermatophores ... A. domesticus, spermatophore wet weight is less than 1% of male mass ... accessory substances ... promote ... conversion ... arachidonic acid to prostaglandins within the female; female fecundity and oviposition are enhanced by the prostaglandins ...."

  • Quote: "... Octop-amine ... affects ... physiology and behavior by acting as neurotransmitter, a neuromodulator, and a neurohormone. The octopaminergic system of insects (invertebrates) and noradrenergic system of vertebrates are homologous ... " Comment: High density colonies are impacted because pro-pioception, touch, smell, vision, taste, sound are all integrated via octop-amine Technical details in (2012) "Review of octopamine in insect nervous system"; available online as free full pdf.

    One way elevated octop-amine (p-hydroxy-ethanol-amine) leads to less weight in pre-adult stage is from drawing out fat accumulation. Quote: " ... liberation of adipo-kinetic hormones from the corpora cardiaca is triggered by octop-amine .. direct effect on the fat body, leading to release of fatty acids ....". And also " ...high ... titers ... accompanied by an aggressive behavior ... agent that directly influences the mood ... also controls ... motor-output or the energy supply ...." (Comment: octop-amine itself does not trigger crickets to fight but rather acts to make them more likely to fight.) From (2003) "Tyramine and Octopamine: Antagonistic Modulators of Behavior and Metabolism"; available online as free full pdf.

    For some data see (1995) "Effects of Population Density on Growth, Behavior and Levels of Biogenic Amines in the Cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus"; Hokkaido University link to English free full pdf = http://133.87.26.249/dspace/handle/2115/32918

  • This research feels like it would support keeping a separate rearing colony (kept at low density and with some selected breeding in place), to feed into a higher density production rearing operation, rather than recirculating the genetics of individuals that have passed through the higher density production rearing.

  • That is really interesting. And so is your observation Andrew. I did some more calculations and if you keep the 1-day old crickets at 2,5 cm2/cricket, then by the time they reach adulthood (and ~35% mortality has occurred), the crickets are at a density of ~4,0 cm2/cricket.

    Looking at your post, keeping breeding populations at 4 cm2/cricket seems like a better option than at 2,5 cm2/cricket.

    As for Andrew, I agree and disagree. The starting companies need to do a lot of domestication; hence a separate colony with handpicked individuals would be a good option. After this 'process' is completed I think the house cricket will be a much more homogeneous animal.

  • to breed 1000 kilos of crickets a year you need to make a set up to harvest apr. 6000 crickets per day. ( 6000 x 30 days old crickets @0,45 grams =2.7 kg) with this closed cycle you will have apr. 1000 kilos at the end. Avoid chicken,pig, turkeyfeed. Full of antibiotics and additives. Mix your own feed :flours of cereals and bran.

  • So 6,000 crickets at 4 cm2 density/cricket (as per EntoJesse data above) = 24,000 cm2/6000 crickets = 2.4 m2 area per day being occupied by a single harvest of 6,000 cricket. Given a cycle of 30 days (as per insecnology above) to achieve a rotating continual harvest would work out to ( 30 x 2.4m2 =) 72 m2 (775 sq.feet) of area needing to be dedicated to the growth of 1,000 kg. crickets a year. Then there would be additional space required for breeding stock manipulations & other associated operations.

  • This an awesome thread- just starting out myself but always with plans for the future and have been looking at warehouse options for down the track, one of things i noticed in your calculations of 72 m2 is that you are not taking into account the stackable nature of the crickets (I think)- afterall, you wouldn't need a 72 m 2 area if you simply use stacked boxes.

  • You also need to take into account surface enhancing area inside the breeding boxes. It is still nice to know the total amount of space needed, as you can then compare different setups in terms of space efficiency. You would need VERY little space for 1000 kg a year. Probably only a few m2 :) Especially if you do separate batch production..

  • To add to this, to go from egg to egg takes around 10 - 42 - 7 days, so that makes a cycle of 59 days.

  • edited November 2015

    This means that you would need to produce 167 kg per cycle at 6 complete cycles a year. At 0,400g per cricket this means you need 167.000 / 0,4 * 4 = **1.670.000 cm2 of space. **

    In another post I calculated that one egg tray provides around 3.200 cm2, so you would need 520 egg trays in total.

    Seeing that one egg tray is ~5 cm wide (provided that you don't stack them in an 'overlapping' manner), you would need 2.600 cm length of breeding boxes. At 60 cm length per breeding box, this comes down to ~43 breeding boxes.

    Stacked 4 high (easily possible with 40-50 cm high boxes), The cumulative width of all those boxes (at 40cm width per box) comes down to 43/4 * 40 = 4.3m. If you use both sides of a wall, you need **2 walls of 2.15 m. **

    So, two walls of 2.15m and another 2 walls where you put other stuff of like 2,15 meter as well.

    Conclusion: to produce 1000 kg on an annual basis, you need one room of 4,6m2, with 43 breeding boxes of 60x40x40 cm inside, running 6 cycles a year producing 167 kilograms of crickets per cycle.

    I hope it's clear, if not, just ask :)

    P.s. I'm sorry for a ridiculous triple post :p

  • Hello, I am going to run an experiment testing different densities of crickets. In lamen's terms, how would you calculate density of crickets and what are some good densities to test? 2.5 cm squared seems to be what many lab experiments have used but Entojesse suggests 4 cm. Sorry but I don't really follow your methods above. How do you account for the surface area of egg flats? I will use cardboard dividers such as the ones found here: http://entomofarms.com/wholesale/ What type of densities do you think cricket farmers (for human consumption) are using?

    I would likely be using a small rubbermaid bin of approx (61 x 41 x 42 cm) (68.1L capacity). I assume some space would have to be left at the top to avoid escapees. They will be kept at 30 deg. Celsius. and fed chicken feed. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you. :)

  • edited January 2016

    EntoJesse, can you elaborate more on the use of egg cartons please? I am in the final design phase of my farm and am unsure of how many crickets i should put in each container. The containers are 121.92cm L x 60.96cm W x 60.96cm H. at 2.5cm2 per cricket, its around 2973 crickets per container but i would like to almost double that number to allow a much much larger production. Im going to have 120 of these size containers every 30 days. Averaging 254.5 pounds. I would like to produce around 400 pounds or more every month.

  • @UrbanCricketFarms - you can fit many more than 2973 crickets in habitats that size. You'll have your egg carton stacked vertically on end, with a height of about 30cm, probably two wide and perhaps 50-60 flats deep (two parallel columns of them in down the length of the box). That will provide you with roughly 220,000 cubic cm of habitable space. Because of the nature of the egg carton, it can really be thought of in terms of 3 dimensional space, it is rather difficult to consider in terms of 2d space. If you wanted to allow 4 cubic cm for each cricket, you'd still have space for about 54,900 crickets per container.

  • Andrew, thank you so much for your help. After all I've learned and studied on crickets, no one has ever referred to them in 3d. This will put my production numbers through the roof and will allow me to have a much more commercialized setup. Once I have completed my entire setup, i will post pictures and an extremely detailed description of it to allow for anyone else who is looking to set up a commercial farm to copy my exact farm. Thanks again!

  • Andrew great information on habitats. I apologize in advance if I ask seemingly simple questions, but I'm rather new to this. I noticed in your equation to Urban Cricket Farms that you call for vertically stacking egg cartons at a height of 30cm. What about the remaining 30cm in height the container he plans to use has? I was looking at bins that are LWH 132102130cm and wondered if there is wasted space? I imagine that room is required, but is 50% a good rule of thumb? Thanks!

  • just noticed an error on measurement from previous post LWH 132cm X 102cm X 130cm.....

  • What is the best organic food source to feed crickets for human consumption?

  • Hi Nello, - You can probably buy organic corn & soybean to grind your own according to the following recipe. On a small scale you can use a different grinder than the expensive one mentioned & get a piece of 20 mesh screen on-line for letting the ideal size feed particles through that's easier for them to eat.

    "Comparison of diets for mass-rearing Acheta domesticus ... as a novelty food, and comparison of food conversion efficiency with values reported for livestock" , (1991) by B.Nakagaki & G.DeFoliart explained their cost effective diet. This diet works out to crude protein = 22.3%, crude fat = 5.5%, ash = 4.4%, crude fiber = 4.9% & energy = 3,118/kg feed; as per Table 1.

    It was modeled on chick feed & the ingredients are: 58 gr. ground yellow corn, 35 gr. soybean meal, 3 gr corn oil, 1 gr calcium carbonate, 2 gr di-calcium phosphate, 0.5 gr iodized salt, 0.25 gr DL-methionine, 0.15 gr of 50% calcium chloride; plus 170mg/kg feed manganese sulfate-5H2O, 110mg/kg feed zinc sulfate-H2O, 500mg/kg feed ferric citrate-5H2O, 16mg/kg feed copper sulfate-5H2O, 0.2mg/kg feed sodium selenite, 1.8mg/kg feed thiamine-HCl, 3.6 mr/kg feed riboflavin, 10 mg/kg feed calcium pantothenate, 25 mg/kg feed niacin, 3 mg/kg feed pyridoxine-HCl, 0.55mg/kg feed folacin, 0.15mg/kg feed biotin, 0.01 md/kg feed vitamin B12, 0.55mg/kg feed vitmin K-1, 1500 units/kg feed vitamin A, 400 units/kg feed vitamin D3, 10 units/kg feed vitamin E.

    On this diet the average weight 21 days (early 8th instars, not weight immediately prior to adulthood) after hatching from egg (under 24 hour lighting & 35+/-2°C) the fresh house cricket's weight = 411-425 mg each. As per Table 2.

  • Thanks for the info gringojay

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