James Rolin and his family started Cowboy Crickets Farms in Belgrade about a year ago. After learning about bug nutrition at the Montana State University Bug Buffet. Now, they are farming millions of crickets.
So, it’s January 2, 2018 and school is closed today because of all the snow and so I’m doing this bonus episode with James from Cowboy Crickets Farms!
So we’re actually talking about Crickets you eat right? I’m sure my husband’s thinking cricket farming – fish bait. But I did read an article about you saying you learned about this at a MSU bug buffet?
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is James, my wife Cathy and I have lived all over the country. We were both in the Coast Guard that took us all over the place. I am still in the military I am aMedical Sargent in the MT National Guard. We have 3 children. We are living in Bozeman, MT.
We love doing everything outside and trying to get back to nature
- rock climbing
- ice climbing
- adreniline junkies
- anything that goes fast
- love innovative things
I think that’s why the Cricket Farming appeals to us.
It’s become our whole life and we love it because we are truly at the cutting edge of agriculture innovation
Where do you start? Do people eat them? Are they protein? or chocolate flavored.
So there’s many different ways! There’s many different ways to eat a cow, not every cow is made into hamburgers
we farm them here in belgrade montana
8 weeks for them to reach maturity
- breed them,
- harvest them
- freeze them to euthanize
- grind to a powder
You freeze them to euthanize them. That sounds pretty cruelty free if you had to die that sounds pretty painless.
part of their natural life cycle
When it gets cold they go into stasis they basically fall asleep. So when it warms up the younger stronger ones wake up and they keep on hopping around living their little cricket lives.
We basically emulate that.
We put them in the freezer.
After about 10 minutes they’re in stasis they look dead but they are really alive. If you took them out and put them in the warm farm that we keep at about 85º year round they would start hopping around again and living their happy little cricket lives.
After about 20 minutes they are completely dead and ready to dehydrate.
That sounds cool. I’m what they call a pescatarian. One of the reasons I eat fish is the salmon they’re gonna come up and spawn and die and lay all over the bed of the creek dead and red! To me it’s almost like a waste to leave them there and its kind of a compromise with my husband. How long is a cricket gonna live anyway?
they’re maximum lifespan is about 8 weeks
Most die in the first days of life because they get eaten.
So we have the happiest healthiest crickets
they’re fed a
- soy free
- corn free
- all organic diet
- all grown in Montana diet
WE’ve done a huge amount of research over the last 8-10 months
how to make the best feed possible for these crickets so what we eat is what they get.
nutrition we get
by changing the
they have a fantastic life
because of how sustainable
we have a lot of vegans and vegetarians
very much animals
humane slaughter practices
extreme nutritional density of these insects.
Basically perfect protein and vitamin b source for Vegan and Vegetarian customers even thought they are animals but people don’t seem to have the same type of ethical issues with eating a bug.
I mean if their life cycle is only 8 weeks they could be practically an adult before they are gonna die and become food anyway.
My curiosity is how big is your place that you are keeping 85º in Montana all year long? Is it a greenhouse? And how often do you have to harvest them?
Our facility is basically a warehouse. Back behind the airport in Belgrade. It’s only 1800 square feet but we have 17 foot ceilings. We use volume
Because of that we can grow up
7 layers of bins that we grow in. About 14 feet
We leave room at the top so we have good air flow
20 million cricket potential
Theoretially can fit 20 million crickets in our facility. We are no where near that we have abot 2-3 million at the moment. We just finished our last breed. We won’t start breeding again till the middle of January and then we will 10 million crickets.
We will have 10 million living crickets at the time we are always harvesting as well.
Every year at capacity we can produce 48,000 pounds of crickets in our little facility. To give you an idea that’s 24 head of cattle! We do that on an 8 week cycle, instead of 2 year. As you said we’re harvesting them at end of life instead of beginning
Are people using it like protein because the other thing that drives me crazy is people are always telling me I should be eating hemp protein, I want to scream! You can’t grow it here? My favorite treat for the break is popcorn with nutritional yeast is it spicy?
I have to say someone turned me onto the popcorn with the nutritional yeast.
This winter I found this yummy multi-colored organic popcorn and then I found avocado oil and nutritional yeast so much better! I also put Dr. Bragg’s amino acids with it.
interesting that you bring that up
- nutritional yeast more then sprinkling it on popcorn
- something to put into their smoothie
- like it for the novelty
- most people buy it for nutrition
- use it in other recipes
chocolate chirp cookies
we take out about 20% of the flour you get 10 grams of protein and a huge amount of iron
- favorite recipe for breads
- salad dressings
- quite versatile
anything you can put powder in
We even have a hospital putting it in macaroni and cheese so their patients don’t have to survive on Ensure.
Do you have anything to add?
Interesting things about their
Like with any animal crickets produce waste
The fertilizer is their droppings called FRASS
Just like any other kind of manure it’s a fantastic soil amendment so we sell
- retail containers
- bulk to farmers
high in nitrogen
another really unique feature
all insect FRASS tricks the plant into thinking it’s being attacked.
Increase production of secondary metabolites
- peppers hotter
- basil more basily
insects trying to eat these plants don’t like it!
The reason the chemicals exist in the plants they are like natural pesticides
using the FRASS before the insects get there
defensive trying to fend off insects
When bugs get close to the plants they are repelled
so you don’t have to use this many pesticides
creates odd effects for the insects
2 and one applicator of nutrition for your plants and protection for your plants.
This is so cool! I wasn’t even supposed to doing this today and I’m so glad because this is addressing so many questions I get from people. I’ve been creating this free garden course and one of the thins we’ve been talking about is soil and manure and where do you get good soil.
So my question is if people want to do this on a small scale can people do this on a small scale like they keep chickens or bees what’s the processing process like? Do you have to have a special freezer? how complicated is this?
How To Farm Crickets
It’s not that complicated, but unfortunately there’s not that much literature
especially for food use
We are slowly working on a book that people can just download
But on our youtube page there is a series on there on how-to farm crickets that takes you step to step
- daily routine
- everything you need to know
there are ways people can find out how
in short it depends on where you live and what approach you take
in Louisiana you can probably have something
In Montana you’re gonna have at least at heater!
Can you do it seasonally? Like just in the winter?
you could do it seasonally, you would have to start with new crickets.
They’re not going to go into stasis
lot of loss
naturally kept down as far as their numbers
only a few the youngest strongest ones wake up in the springtime
that natural way year round
if you were to keep them in your basement
heater room make sure they don’t get out because that gets annoying!
Start UP Costs
could do it on the cheap
It only takes about $50 to get started.
What’s the markets like? You said you’re selling them to hospitals. Do you have trouble shipping to markets? Are they light besides?
Well by the time you grind them up and turn them into a powder
It takes about 2500 crickets to make a pound of powder.
It doesn’t take much to transport them.
We are licensed food facility with both FDA and MT Department Health and Human Services.
We have our own commercial kitchen won’t have to rent kitchen space anymore
It’s not tough to cell them, the thing is you need to make quantities people want to buy
flavored cricket each month
true commercial scale
You need to produce 1000s of pounds a month
That’s what we’re trying to build up to and it’s difficult takes time and space
Cricket Farmer Network
We’re developing network of cricket farmers who will use our methodology.
give them resources
They buy the equipment
get initial set up of crickets
use our feed
we’ll buy every pound of cricket they produce
don’t have to developing an entire business and brand off of it. Instead we take care of that.
Sign me up! I’m so interested. This is awesome! I feel like we could get this started this summer!
We’re super excited
look at our youtube videos
by hand manual way
We’re looking at an automation system. Something you set on a table top
one bin or 10k
software will control the hardware that controls the environment.
You don’t have to go in every few days
You put it on the table and 8 weeks later you give them breeding material and then you harvest
people don’t have to have a huge
enormous support for our state. After a year of researching and doing this every day we finally have the methods for growing the crickets correctly. It”s not realistic for most crickets to do.
this will take care of everything
couple of a hundred dollars for a system and it will pay for itself if you sell us the crickets.
I like all the pieces it is providing a nice protein. It’s healthy for people It’s sustainable. It’s creating new innovative jobs. It all sounds like a good thing. I just did an interview with Nina Heinzinger about value added products and this might be something market farmers being able to add to their products to enhance your farm you already have with little extra work.
We’ve had some of the people who are interested in becoming network farmers. Most of the people who have come to us are farmers.
- cattle farmers
- barley farmers
- chicken farmers
I have my old chicken farm that I’m not using anymore because I just built this new chicken building, I need something that I could do with it
grow millions of millions
1/4 acre of your cow farm
really almost do it anywhere
I could do it in my garage
People in San Francisco who say I don’t have a car, I bike to work I could put crickets in there.
They are so easy to grow as long as you keep the environment correct.
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And now let’s get to the root of things!
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
I grew up in Long Beach, CA. My first gardening experience was probably with my mom in our backyard. We grew
- tomato and pepper plants
big thing in Southern California – tomatos and avocados
Avocado is a big tree
always had little farms gardens
I just saw a whole thing on edible flowers the other day and there’s a lot more to them then I realized, I usually just stick to nasturtiums mainly. But even Mandy Gerth sells some gorgeous packages of eddible flowers.
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do with the crickets?
Sweeping the farm and things that aren’t directly related to the crickets. We have extremely high sanitary features.
- It’s sanitized weekly.
- It’s swept and mopped every day.
luckily we have been able to hire on a farm manager
does a phenomenal job!
I’m glad I asked you that. I was like I could go clean my classroom or my apartment but that’s like the last thing I’m gonna do on my free day off!
What is your favorite activity to do in the crickets?
Really really like, when the crickets just hatch and you have 10s of thousands of new babies around. When you go to poor them into the new bin.
You see them spread out into a carpet of crickets. It’s fascinating!
We just read parts of a Cricket in Times Square. Do they sing, or make noise?
The males are the ones that chirp
- don’t have any chirping
- waiting for our oldest ones to mature
- should have chirping year round here soon.
- almost done closing that gap.
- it is fun especially on the tours
Where are you now your just north of yellowstone park about an hour? right?
about an hour an hour and half from Yellowstone Park
it’s an amazing depending on the weather and how much you spend paying attention to the speed limit.
But it’s gorgeous right?
The roads get pretty rough in the winter time
Bozeman and Belgrade it’s probably -10º down there.
way way colder
summer time you can drive though the park
coming up to bozeman
Or if they have to fly from the airport? It seems like Mike and I have done that? It’s a spectacular drive. And in the winter people go snow mobilieing you can probably go cross country skiing. I don’t think we have been there in the winter. Mike is from Colorado, his grandmother was in Colorado Springs, seems like we would have been headed there driving through in the summer.
love to have visitors to the farm tour.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
That’s where we got our info from
entymologist we work with at MSU named Florence Dunkel
They have been very helpful to get us through these obstacles and learning moments
Our very first hatch
the adults all laid their eggs
- they got older
- we harvest them
- we had 0 crickets
- all we had were eggs
when they had bene laid
should have only been 10-16 days for them to hatch
only been like 9 days
we were freaking out
you should have 1000s and 1000s of crickets
give it a few more days and the next day we had 10,000 crickets.
a big thing to learn from any kind of farming is just be patient! You’re dealing with nature.
It’s very appropos today. I think I’m feeling very stressed today. I’m feeling much better!
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?
Moving it would be difficult especially in the winter time!
As far as a tool for the Cricket Farm nothing is all that special
I guess a knife, we don’t really use a knife for the crickets but we open up a lot of boxes and have to cut a lot of things. I usually have a pocket knife on me I use it probably every day for something.
gonna be a knife…
I can totally relate, it’s always in my purse, IDK how people go anywhere without one and a head lamp. We use my knife a lot for picnicking eating in the car.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the crickets?
I think it’s the pretty simple, I like to take our whole roasted Smokey Jumper Crickets
whole roasted smokey jumpers put them on the soup especially lentils
texture and spiceness
A favorite internet resource?
is king for information
I’m on there literally a few hours a day, learning something!
There are just so many free resources and you can quickly compare and contrast other peoples info to see what’s working across the board and what’s not working and where the outliers are.
I’ve used it a lot for cricket farming.
It’s so true how youtube is changing the world how we learn. It seems like people should be a little more up in arms about the net neutrality issue and fair internet access.
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
There is one specific book, it’s a very technical book, not very technical as peer reviewed papers
Don’t have it in front of me
All things bugs
rearing insects for food and feed
many great and Florence Dunkel
If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?
Absolutely if someone wants to get into Cricket Farming I would implore them to reach out to us.
Every day this month we’re launching something new every day this year for the new year!
More details about our
- automation system
- pricing systems for what we’re gonna buy crickets for.
If anyone is interested in cricket farming and a guaranteed income source.
We have so many orders to fill it’s insane! So we really need farmer’s on our team.
Visit our website cowboycrickets.com and sign up for the mailing list
reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
150 + emails a day, takes me a minute
will get back to me
find us on Facebook
find where you can get stuff for free
money and grants
usually you have to do a lot of work and you have to do something worthwhile
you can talk to Blackstone Launchpad at MSU
great connections in different industries
what can you get for free
don’t be afraid to ask
middle school had a crush on this girl
never told anyone
what’s the worst that can happen she says no
it’s not true
in business you’re just dating
forming a relationship
they can only say no or yes
most people want to say yes to everything
don’t even know you exist
don’t be afraid to sell
Masters before Marriage…
both of us are going to school right now
because of the army need to commission I have to go back to school.
Always learn something in a class and they want to teach me basics on something I literally teach. Taking an intro of communications class when I teach people on
- raise crickets
- medical procedures
- troop leader
I know the frustration I want to get my masters… I’ve been in several classes where people have been like you should be teaching this. When I was in college, my advisor was like you can’t take this semester, it’s too difficult and she made me quit my job… and then in the spring she’s like oh sorry I didn’t know your a techy… I always say in college you never know who’s gonna be sitting next to you…
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I think what we need to do is find ways to focus people’s minds on to changing the world in a positive way that’s accessible to them. What I mean by that is
one of the projects were just stating to work on.
Both my wife and I we’re both veterans so we’re working on ways to give these cricket farms that are out there to Veterans suffering with PTSD or people with other issues
non-veterans have trauma in their life
agriculture is a really good way to keep your mind busy and find peace
One of my friends former coasty as well
find to solve that was to get
Mark’s edible insects podcast
what I would like to see
creative innovative ways
solve mental illness
do that while helping the world
technically I am 88…
used apparently I’m a millennial
coming back from nyc in the airport and I’d spent all my cash becuase everywhere we went wouldn’t take credit cards. We went to price out a shoe shine
guy only took cash
gentleman at the time
said freakin millennials never have cash.
come to find out
1984… I am. Not how I was raised. I served a decade in the military
I didn’t think the fact that I didn’t have $10 in cash represented who I am.
What you don’t know about my show is the millennials I talk to on my show are the amazing world changers on my show. And why doesn’t that guy have a little square on his phone so he can take cash. I love that about Montana I go crazy in NY. you can go into the town pump buy a newspaper for a $1 with your check card and the machine will ask you would you like cash back? It’s like this is 2017! Yes I want cash back.
I love what you do and your caring about people. In Montana we have one of the highest suicide rates in the US and even at home in the county where I live we have one of the highest unemployment rates and a lot of people struggle and lots of trauma.
I think you’re one of the best millennials I’ve met and doing a lot for people and do’t worry about that shoeshine guy he’s just ignorant!
I love this interview I’m so glad I talked to you today!
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
it’s been great speaking with you
most of my friends know me as the guy that has something to say about anything
Today’s a good day to start!
i’s never too early
Do you listen to JLD? He’s a veteran too and he’d probably love you. HE taught me how to podcast. He’s right on the edge, he’s always like if I’m a millennial I’m like the oldest millennial.
You know what I wanted to ask, do you have anything to tell people about getting a commercial kitchen?
Commercial kitchen nightmare
my wife Cathy is certified
We have a lot of experience with building small businesses
With all that experience this kitchen has been the biggest pain in the butt
because you have to deal with the government everything is slow and even in Montana where things are usually really fast compared to California and New York
you can talk to people really fast because we only have 1,000,000 people in the whole state.
- 11 months into this project
- 2 locations into this project
- zoning varriences
- because of our certificate of subdivision approval (COSA)
- subdivision approval
- one business in a lot
- some have 20
- we had 2 when we went to get licensing
- Been a big struggle to get this thing going
- Just a few weeks away
- waiting on our last piece of equipment
- cooler that’s coming in
- Got our approval
- Waiting for our final licensing inspection
if I were to say anything IDK some of this info I still don’t know where to find it,
So I would say find someone who has gone through the process, you can pay people a lot of money but if you can find a friend who has done this can give you some advice. You’re gonna have a lot of specific questions. It’s a very in depth process and when in doubt give them too much information.
Well Thanks so much for sharing with us today!
How do we connect with you?
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