Ever wanted to have crickets as a snack? Now you might.
Lundy Chou is the CEO and co-founder of Cricket House Cambodia, a company aimed at bringing sustainable, alternative protein sources to the world. Lundy’s interest in agriculture has been instilled from a young age, having been close to farmers and farm owners within the community. As she grew up, she shared that she wanted to see youths champion sustainable production and consumption of protein – this was her driving force in setting up Cricket House. However, to Lundy, sustainable consumption of protein doesn’t mean the likes of Impossible and Beyond. At Cricket House, sustainable protein is… crickets.
When asked: why crickets? Lundy explained that while crickets are a staple food amongst Cambodians, they are also a great sustainable protein source alternative as they provide four times more protein than beef and requires three times less land space than poultry. At the same time, the production of crickets consumes only one liter of water per kilogram (versus 15,415 liters of water for one kilogram of beef)
Lundy explained how Cambodian farmers often struggle to maintain livelihoods for themselves and their families Thus, as part of Cricket House’s mission to farm sustainably and improve farmer livelihoods, Cricket House came up with a ‘smart incubator’.
Run by clean solar energy, Cricket House’s smart incubator allows farmers to save time – with feeding the crickets only taking around 15-20 minutes each day and the incubator doing most of the work in looking after the crickets, farmers are left with with more time to fulfill other responsibilities and/or pursue other means of income.
Another benefit of the cricket incubator is the prevention of seasonal challenges for farmers. Typically, the conditions of the different times of the year would result in differing yields which does not provide stable income for cricket farmers, a factor which does not impact the smart incubator. Best of all, the smart incubator has shown to improve production efficiency. By using traditional farming methods, a typical yield cycle (which takes approximately 40 days) for a cricket farmer would produce around only around 10-15kg of crickets. However, with their cricket incubator, it can be increased to around 25kg per cycle.
Apart from benefiting the farmers, Cricket House’s methods also place an emphasis on their consumers, seeing as Lundy found that many Cambodian cooking practices could be improved for better health. For example, Cricket House’s snacks are sun-dried, not deep fried. Through this, Lundy hopes to simultaneously educate Cambodians that there are healthier lifestyle alternatives without having to give up the food they enjoy eating. Additionally, Cricket House feeds their crickets using organic vegetables which are also grown by their farmers, ensuring the best quality of the crickets used in their products for people to consume.
While Lundy has made strides in her journey, the path hasn’t always been easy. “In Cambodia, women are often still overlooked as leaders. The challenge I face occasionally is that when I go and talk to the farmers, as I am a woman and am younger than them, they often think I don’t have as much experience and knowledge as them which leads to resistance on their end to accept our new methods.”
In the spirit of a positive mindset, Lundy has been able to see the silver lining behind this challenge, “what I then try to do is involve their wives, this then opens a door and allows us to work with the whole farming family. This way we can show how their whole family can benefit from their new methods and from working closely with the staff from Cricket House.”
Lundy’s message for all women and girls in agriculture: “If you can dream it, you can do it. Work hard, learn hard and stay motivated!”