Cricket Farming

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

What is the future of food and where can we find it? If you would like to find out, then I suggest you continue reading. The short and simple answer is crickets and we find them, among other places, in Thailand, in particular, the north-east. While the land of smiles has us thinking about a lot of things, cricket may not be one of them. As a matter of fact, you can find about 20 000 cricket farms in Thailand. And, yes, 22 340 cricket farmers were around when it all started and now it’s dropped to the aforementioned 20 000 farms in 2011. In other words, a decline of about 10% cricket farmers.

I would say, fear not. Looking at the production amount when it comes to crickets we see 6 523 tonnes in 2006, and then an upturn to 7 500 tonnes in 2011. Not to bad I would say.

The start of the Future of Food

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

Cricket farming was introduced in Thailand just over 2 decades ago, in 1997. Even if cricket farming is very small when comparing to other kinds of livestock production like poultry, it shows great potential for both the consumer and its producers, the people. The initial push for the cricket industry came from Khon Kaen University in Thailand. The University helped spread:

  • Cricket farming techniques
  • Research
  • Product development

Now the focus has gone from wild cricket harvesting to small-scale independent cricket farming. The cricket farms of Thailand with its entrepreneurship, job creation and consequently the economic growth helps the development of the rural areas of this wonderful country. If we include processing, transport, and marketing you’ll find that insect farming is an industry which provides incomes for tens of thousands of people. Considering these facts, it might not be a surprise to learn that its neighboring countries Cambodia and Laos now too engage in this type of industry.

How Crickets are sold in Thailand

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

This gummy insect is sold in a number of ways:

  • Both in small and large, daily or weekly wet markets.
  • The frozen ones are usually found at the larger markets.
  • Live crickets meant for home use are sold from small and open cages with wheels.
  • The majority of crickets are sold whole, either as fresh, frozen or fried in oil.
  • You’ll also be able to find them in the north-eastern part of Thailand, during festivals and at their night markets, sold as street food.

In a place called Khon Kaen, bicycle-powered food carts have started to turn up. These food carts sell both wild and farmed crickets, and they also play music in order to draw attention from customers from places of “refreshments”. The bugs are then eaten as a snack or delicacy. And yes, my first time eating a cricket was during a moment of enhanced bravery, caused by the aforementioned “refreshments”. Now I eat them all the time, either fried or as a flour. Mind you, I don’t just eat the flour as is, I use it in my baking for example.

How Cricket Farmers in Thailand make Money

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

According to a study published by Wageningen Academic Publishers, 67% of the cricket farms sold their crickets to wholesale buyers. In general, the Thai cricket farmers sold their crickets in various ways, and include:

  • Local markets
  • Urban markets- Where I buy mine, I’m not particularly fond of “the wild”…
  • Farm gate
  • Kiosks
  • To other farmers
  • And with motorcycle deliveries.

Large-scale cricket farmers go for selling their cricket to a wholesaler. The wholesaler, in turn, then brings them to the market.

High and Low season

This too, according to the study found that in Mahasalakam, one wholesale cricket dealer purchases the crickets from a co-op, consisting of 200 farmers from the surrounding areas. The trader could then sell 700-800 kg of crickets per day. However, in January, only 100-200 kg of crickets is sold. Also, during the moths, March-June, which is the hot season, there’s a lot of crickets but not as many buyers. The same can be said of the rainy season, which is July-October. Consequently, crickets are stored in a freezer, to then be brought out to us consumers when needed. The cricket trader also states that compared to 20 years ago, a lot more people are into the buying and selling of crickets. In other words, things are moving in the right direction.

The Future of Food came from Above

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

Now, if you ever visit Thailand and you get to eat all the goodies, and perhaps check out a cricket farm, note that even though entomophagy, the use of insects as food, is not entirely a grassroots movement. It’s part of the Thai culture, yes, but it is now becoming an industry. This entomophagy push came as stated earlier from Khon Kaen University with its cricket farming techniques,  research and, product development.

Governmental strategies for The Future of Food in Thailand

I’m by no means a fan of pesky governmental interference when it comes to the creation of a whole new system of food. Especially when this system shows potential in saving the planet. It needs to happen, we need a green economy. In other words, I’m very biased. And in that spirit, I sought out something to complain about. However, I didn’t succeed in that endeavor.

As it turns out, the “cricket world” hasn’t been the first concern of the people who make the decisions, nor to its food safety authorities. The interference of the Thai government on the cricket farming industry on a national level is minimal and indirect. At least when compared to other agricultural industries.

Now, I mentioned interference, we will, however, look at some positive things governmental, international, and good people have done to make the necessary changes for us to look at entomophagy as an alternative food source.

Universities from other parts of the world and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization plays an important role in bringing entomophagy into our lives. Wild crickets have been part of the diet for a long time in the north-east of Thailand. Consequently, when these people have been on the look-out for jobs, they’ve landed in urban centers. Here they’ve brought their cricket eating way of life.

It used to be you could find a silkworm or two at the markets. Nowadays though, you’ll find a lot of insects at the market for you to eat and enjoy.

Historical Evidence of Food from Above

Considering the context of this article I thought it would only be fitting to put an excerpt from one of our other articles here for you to read. As follows…
Crickets among other insects are part of the staple diet of the Thai people. There’s this one bug that’s very popular as a snack, it’s not the cricket like I normally like to talk about but “Patanga succincta”. Patanga succincta is a locust. I bring this up to show you an example of how our eating habits can change for the better. You see, the reason to why the locust Patanga succincta is so popular as a snack is because of the Thai government. In the nineteen seventies, specifically in 1978, there was a locust outbreak and in order to conduct a successful crop pest control, they did something very clever.

They simply promoted the edibility of this insect. Today, that bug is no longer “bugging” anybody. Consequently, farmers now grow crops specifically to feed them. This due to the shift in market value. – To read the full article click here.

How the Cricket Industry was brought Into the Market

Khon Kaen University has played an active role, providing students with courses which:

  • Offer insight into cricket farming
  • Through the university’s community service mandate, training events both on campus and in the field have been conducted. 

We also see other Ways the University Contributes

  • Bachelor students who study entomology keep their own club for edible insects. Here they raise and sell crickets at the KKU night market and during the universities festivals. 
  • Grants have been given to research a range of areas related to our favorite bug, the cricket.

You can also find researchers from the University frequently answer questions cricket farmers have regarding the production systems through social media. As previously stated other actors are involved in the world of insects such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. And this organization, more specifically, The FAO Reginal office of Asia and the Pacific, in concert with Khon Kaen University has played a vital role in the furtherance of cricket farming in the region. Besides the important part the Khon Kaen University in developing and disseminating cricket farming technology, we see there are other actors as well.

These actors financially backed the exploration into productive insects species, and they include:

  • The Thai Department of Cooperatives and Extension.
  • Ministry of Agriculture.

Most of the backing by the Thai government comes from Khon Kaen University. This since the funds for the development of cricket farming and its related activities has been channeled through the university.

The Future of Food goes to Europe

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms
Yes, the picture above is not of Europe but of paperwork. Because that’s what’s keeping crickets out of the European Union.

The shortcomings in the seeing insects as a source of food and possible contribution to food security is something that exists everywhere in the world. The European Union must look at existing trade constraints and do something about this crazy way of saying no to the future of food. Meanwhile, on the positive side of things, there’re a few countries in Europe that actually allows for the sale of crickets and other edible insect products.

And those countries are:

  • The Netherlands
  • The United Kingdom
  • France
  • Belgium

It’s thought to be expected to see more insects products coming from Thailand to Europe. It is, after all, the future of food.

Is it Important to see The Cricket in Europe?

The Future of Food is in Thailand and its Cricket Farms

I would most certainly say so. At least when listening to just one of the facts coming from The UN Food and Agriculture Organization. That fact is we could potentially see a rise in population, reaching about 10 billion people in the next 50 years.

There’s not just that though. We need to consider the fact that we do have a growing economic wealth and purchasing power. So what do the numbers from the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, the FAO, tell us? Well, as a matter of fact, their estimates show us something quite scary. Compared to today’s global food production, a 60% increase is needed in order to meet the worldwide food requirements by the year 2050.

After all, insects are very rich in:

  • Protein.
  • Vitamins.
  • Minerals.

They’re also an efficient bunch. With up to 600% higher food-conversion ratio than beef cattle. The future of food truly is in Thailand and its cricket farms. When we look at Thailand we can see that they are contributing to a better more sustainable world. What’s needed are technologies and practices which can provide us with:

  • Ecologically sustainable, important for obvious reasons.
  • Scalablebility, so we can have enough food.
  • Profitablebilty, the farmers needs and deserves to make money for this wonderful “new” food.

Summary

We have established that the future of food is in Thailand and its cricket farms. Or rather that it’s a milestone and serves as a pillar of change, towards a richer and greener future as well as a model for other countries to turn to. We can find 20 000 cricket farms in Thailand. The initial push for this industry came from Khon Kaen University with its Cricket farming techniques, research, and product development. There’s not a lot of governmental interference when it comes to the world of crickets.

The countries in the European Union where its legal to sell crickets were The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, France, and Belgium. Also, The European Union must look at existing trade constraints and do something about this crazy way of saying no to the future of food. The majority of crickets are sold whole, either as fresh, frozen or fried in oil. Crickets are sold both in small and large, daily or weekly wet markets.

Insects are rich in protein, vitamins and, minerals. Compared to today’s global food production, a 60% increase is needed in order to meet the worldwide food requirements by the year 2050. Now you know what to do if you want to go greener, If you’re still scared to try, do as I did and combine it with a beverage of bravery. You’ll see that it’s not that scary.

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