Cricket Farming for Human Consumption

Summary

Cricket farming is a popular activity for farmers in Thailand and started in 1998. Currently around 20.000 farmers raise crickets for human consumption. Cricket farming contributes to the livelihood and nutrition base of farmers and a value chain has established through which the crickets are marketed around Thailand. The technology presented is aimed at small scale producers in Thailand and neighboring countries, in which these species are also available in nature. Small scale producers can be farmers, but also other people and even groups, who see a business opportunity in selling crickets. The technology describes some of the common species used, and how a cricket farm is set up. It further describes daily management of a cricket farm, including processing for sales and important risks to be taken into consideration.

Description

 

Cricket Species to be used

Cricket farming has succesfully been established with the following species:

Species Name
  • Teleogryllus testaceus/ Teleogryllus mitratus
  • Gryllus bimaculatus
Picture
Species name
  • Telegryllus occipitalis
  • Acheta domesticus
Picture

Acheta domesticus has been introduced later to the technology, but is now more popular with farmers in Thailand.

Life Cycle of the crickets: Development from egg to adult cricket is similar in the different species mentioned above (45 to 60 days).

 

Materials for Breeding Containers

To establish a cricket farm, farmers can choose from a variety of materials to establish breeding containers.

Breeding container options Concrete cylinder pen Concrete block pen
Size
Approximately 80 centimetres in diameter and 50 centimetres high
The sizes vary depending on space availability; 1.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 metres is common
Possible amount of cricket raised per production cycle One cylinder can produce around 2 to 4 kilograms of crickets
One pen can produce 25 to 30 kilograms of cricket.
Advantage
Inexpensive, easy to maintain and suitable for small- and medium size farms
Rectangular shape is an efficient way of using space.
Disadvantage
Cannot be moved easily and need considerable space
Risk of disease outbreak or overheating as the cricket population is always crowded
Pictures of breeding containers

 

Breeding containers Plywood boxes Plastic drawers
Size Made from plywood or gypsum board. They are about 1.2 x 2.4 x 0.5 metres Made from plastic sheets. Each drawer is square and around 0.8 x 1.8 x 0.3 metres in size.
Possible amount of cricket raised per production cycle One box can produce 20 to 30 kilograms of crickets A set of 3-4 drawers can produce can produce 6 to 8 kilograms of crickets
Advantage Boxes are movable. Easy to clean and do not build up as much heat as the concrete block pens Boxes are easily movable. Need very little space and are suitable for small- and medium-size farms.
Disadvantage Boxes are less durable than the concrete blocks Plastic deteriorates and needs replacing. Furthermore, crickets stored in the top drawers have a high mortality rate due to overheating.
Pictures of breeding containers
  • House crickets are bred in the various containers described above, sometimes with mosquito nets to keep crickets in and predators out.
  • Further tape stripes are attached to the top of the breeding container to prevent the crickets to walk over the edge.
  • The bedding is often made from a layer of rice husks but some breeders do not use any material.
  • Cardboard egg cartons are mainly used in order to resemble a natural environment. 

Example of placed egg cartons

 

How to feed crickets

Commercial high protein animal feed, particularly chicken feed, is widely used in cricket farming. Chicken feed with 14 or 21 percent protein content is commonly used.
  • The 21 percent protein feed is used for feeding crickets after hatching until they are 20 days old. Subsequently they are fed with mixed 14 and 21 percent protein feed until harvesting at 45 days old. The protein content of the chicken feed is described on the package.
  • A few days before harvesting, the high protein feed is replaced with vegetables such as pumpkins, cassava leaves, morning glory leaves and watermelons.
  • Water supply: water sources should be available either in shallow bowls or other containers which are easy accesible for the crickets. The water source should always be filled and water replaced when it is becoming dirty.

Day to day farming

  • As soon as the male crickets stridulate, bowls containing a mixture of husk and sand are placed in the breeding enclosure in which females can lay eggs (within 24 hours); egg-laying duration is seven to fourteen days.
  • The bowls are moved to another breeding tank for incubation and hatching, in which the new colony is established. Hatching occurs usually after about seven to ten days, in a stable temperature. This reproduction cycle can be repeated one to three times for each generation.
  • Production is feasible at temprature higher then 20°C and the ideal temperature is 28-30° C.
Female crickets laying eggs in husk and rice (Photo: Christopher Münke, 2012) Placing of bowls with nymphs in breeding container (Photo: Christopher Münke, 2012) Nymphs of Acheta domesticus on chicken feed (Photo: Christopher Münke, 2012)

 

Harvesting/Collection of crickets

  • After the maiting period occurs (between days 40 to 45 of the life cycle in normal climatic conditions) the crickets can be collected.
  • Crickets are harvested by lifting the egg cartons out of the container and shaking the crickets into a container.
  • Afterwards the breeding container is completely emptied and cleaned from all remaining parts and crickets until it can be refilled. 

Post harvest handling/Processing

Processing can be done at the cricket farm or trough a cooperative of farmers or small scale enterprises/wholesalers.

  1. Crickets are washed in clean water without added substances.
  2. Boil crickets in clean water for a few minutes.
  3. Second washing in cold clean water.
  4. Packaging in plastic bags.
  5. Weighing.
  6. Cold storage for transport on ice or in cool unit. Storage of crickets in plastic bags in plastic tanks (see below picture f) on ice can only be carried temporarily for 2-3 days. Long-term storage with -18 to -20 C is possible up to a year. However most crickets are quickly processed for consumption. 

 
 
Economy of a small scale insect farm (1 example from Thailand, Currency Thai Baht)
 
The chart below present the investment, operating cost and possible profit of two cricket farms using different breeding containers. The figures are calculated for one harvesting cycle.
 
 
 
 

Challenges in cricket farming

  • High cost of high protein feed: approximately half of the production cost is feed, which is commercially produced by the chicken industry. Therefore, cricket farming is vulnerable to price increases in the chicken feed industry, which undermines profitability. Research is needed to find low cost or free protein sources to develop into a special feed formula for crickets.
  • Disease: currently, disease risk is almost non-existent. However, in the future, with continuing high density cricket populations, disease problems are likely to arise. There have been a few cases of crickets dying without any disease symptoms or pathogens. It is suspected that overcrowding or contamination by fungi in the feed may have been the cause.
  • In-breeding: is another risk as many cricket farms are closed units using breeding stock produced on the farm. Already on some cricket farms the effects of in-breeding are visible with less active and slow-maturing crickets.The problem seems to arise after three generations, so sourcing breeding stock and eggs outside the farm should be a recognized best practice for all farmers.
 
Potential from cricket farming business
 
Cricket breeding farms produce crickets as the main product, but the business can also sell cricket eggs to other farmers, to prevent in-breeding and cricket waste can be used as fertilizer on farms.
 
 
 
Acknowledgement
 
To the Mrs Yupa Hanbonsoong, Mrs Tasanee Jamjanya and Mr Patrick Durst, who wrote the six-legged livestock publication and from which most of the information in this technology sheet is used.
 
The authors of the publication wish to acknowledge with special thanks the support of Ms Chalida Sri-in and Mr Permsit Chatkunlawat, graduate students at Khon Kaen University, for their assistance in conducting surveys and collecting data in support of this publication. Generous appreciation is also extended to all the insect farmers,collectors, processors, traders, and others in the Thai insect business who gave their valuable information during interviews to share their experiences and insights. Dr Alan Yen, Department of Primary Industries Victoria & La Trobe University, Australia, provided useful comments and advice on the manuscript of the publication. Valuable editing support was provided by Mr Robin Leslie, Mr Peter Martyn, Ms Janice Naewboonnien and Ms Tarina Ayazi. Ms Kanyapat Seneewong Na Ayudhaya, Mr Sompob Modemoung and Ms Sansiri Visarutwongse provided creative and talented design, format and layout support.
 
 
 

Further reading

Hanboosong, Y., Jamjanya, T., Durst, P.D., (2013). Six-legged livestock, edible insect farming, collecting and marketing in Thailand. FAO http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3246e/i3246e.pdf

van Huis, A., van Itterbeeck, J., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G. and Vantomme,P. (2013). Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. FAO 2013. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf

CTA handbook on insects (Agrodok series),
free download available here: http://publications.cta.int/en/publications/publication/1846/

Countries

Thailand

Created date

Tue, 17/12/2013 - 11:20

Source(s)

Non Wood Forest Product Division (NWFP), Forestry Department in FAO

Established in 1991, the promotion and development of non-wood forest products (NWFP) is one of the priority areas of FAO's Forestry Department. Our mission is to improve the sustainable utilization of NWFP in order to contribute to the wise management of the world's forests, to conserve their biodiversity, and to improve income generation and food security. NWFP are products of biological origin other than wood derived from forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests. Several million households world-wide depend heavily on NWFP for subsistence and/or income. Some 80 percent of the population of the developing world use NWFP for health and nutritional needs. Women from poor households are generally those who rely more on NWFP for household use and income. NWFP have also attracted considerable global interest in recent years due to the increasing recognition of their contribution to environmental objectives, including the conservation of biological diversity.

Contacts: 
Contact person: 
Afton Marina Szasz Halloran (For cricket farming)
Contact email: 
Country: 
Italy