California Welcomes Its First Edible Cricket Farm

Crickets, like those being fried in this image, are increasingly being used as an alternative protein in everything from energy bars to cookies. (Photo: kawephoto/Shutterstock)

If entrepreneur Elliot Mermel has his way, cricket-based powders and flours will one day be available in every grocery store in the U.S. The 25-year-old is preparing to launch California's first cricket farm in the San Fernando Valley, riding a wave interest in edible insects as a sustainable alternative to more conventional, energy-intensive protein sources.

"I met all these people who are excited about this idea, excited that someone from my generation isn’t just flying out to California to be an actor, or to create a new app or new social media," Mermel told the Daily News. “This is classical American entrepreneurship. You build something to solve a problem."

That problem is largely due to a soaring human population expected to number more than 9 billion by 2050. With edible insects requiring fewer resources and producing less waste than cows, pigs or chickens, it's a simple matter of math to understand how Mermel's new venture makes sense. Crickets in particular are especially nutritious, with half the fat of beef and a third more protein. In California, where water restrictions are increasingly the norm, it's worth noting that it only takes one gallon of water to raise a pound of crickets; whereas it takes more than 2,000 gallons for one pound of beef.

Today, there are roughly 30 companies making products using cricket flour, from energy bars to cookies. Mermel's Coalo Valley farm in California will join a collection of edible insects ventures already underway in states like Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Georgia. "It's basically the next superfood," Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, co-founder of high-tech cricket incubator Tiny Farms, told FastCoExist. "It's a healthy and sustainable way to get some protein. The market size for similar categories, even niche products, gets into the hundreds of millions pretty quickly."

To help get his cricket empire off the ground, Mermel plans on launching a Kickstarter campaign in the next few weeks to build awareness and raise funds. He's already leased a 7,000 square foot facility and hopes to begin selling his first crop in August for between $44-$55 per pound.