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Food, Agriculture, and Animals

Regional Edible Insect Industry Envisioned By Hopping Startup

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Cricket Flours
Roasted cricket bites are the newest product line of Portland-based startup Cricket Flours.

A food industry startup from Oregon is ready to sell you something completely different for your mid-morning snack. How about some roasted crickets in cayenne spice or original flavor?

Cricket Flours started by selling finely-ground crickets sourced from wholesalers in the Midwest and back East two years ago. The powder, which has a slightly nutty flavor, can be a protein supplement or gluten-free baking ingredient.

"There's been a lot of great market validation over the last year for the entire edible insect industry and also for our company Cricket Flours,” company founder and CEO Charles Wilson said.

Wilson now aspires to expand beyond retail by building a processing plant locally. But education and recruitment of farmers interested in rearing food-grade crickets or mealworms comes first.

"It would really be a game changer if we could build that regional supply chain,” Wilson said.

Cricket Flours took the top prize earlier this month in a cleantech business competition put on by Portland State University. Wilson described the $15,000 prize check as a good start to get off the ground and running with the new idea.

Wilson said the winnings will seed a new entity called the Edible Insect Foundation. The 2015 University of Oregon law school grad estimated a full-scale processing plant would require $200,000-$400,000 to build.

The entrepreneur regularly visits trade shows, museums and food fairs to offer consumers free samples and preach about the nutrition and environmental sustainability advantages of eating insects. Cricket Flours will have a booth at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Harvest Festival in Portland on October 2.