With more protein than beef, and with less land use than chicken rearing, insect protein is an attractive alternative to animal meat
Lundy Chou is co-founder and CEO of Cricket House Cambodia, a company aimed at bringing sustainable, alternative protein sources to the world. For Lundy, this means insects. Lots and lots of insects.
The need for sustainable protein sources
Lundy’s interest in agriculture developed from a young age, as she was surrounded by farmers and farm owners in her local community. As she grew up, she felt the urge to encourage youths to champion the sustainable production and consumption of protein. For Lundy, this didn’t mean plant-based solutions such as Impossible or Beyond. Instead, she was looking at insect proteins, specifically crickets. This led to the creation of Cricket House where, perhaps unsurprisingly, the sustainable protein of choice is…crickets.
Farming insects for protein
When asked: why crickets? Lundy explained that while crickets are a staple food amongst Cambodians, they are also a great sustainable protein source alternative. Crickets provide four times more protein than beef and require three times less land space than poultry. At the same time, the production of crickets consumes only one liter of water per kilogram, versus a massive 15,415 liters of water per kilo of beef.
Getting started with insect farming
Cambodian farmers often struggle to maintain livelihoods for themselves and their families. To better support both sustainable farming and improved quality of life for farmers, the team at Cricket House came up with the “smart incubator.” Thus, as part of Cricket House’s mission to farm sustainably and improve farmer livelihoods, Cricket House came up with a ‘smart incubator’.
The smart incubator runs on clean solar energy. It is set up to do most of the work itself, with the farmers needing to spend only 15-20 minutes per day feeding the crickets. This gives the farmers more time to address their other responsibilities or pursue additional sources of income.
A huge benefit of farming crickets in the incubator is that it negates the challenges surrounding seasonal farming. The smart incubator is a controlled environment, so yields remain consistent whatever the weather. In fact, the incubator improves overall production efficiency, increasing the average 40-day yield from 10-15kg of crickets to 25kg. By eliminating seasonal variation and improving base yields, the incubator is a great tool for farmers.
Insect protein – a healthier alternative
Apart from benefiting the farmers, Cricket House’s methods also place an emphasis on consumers. Lundy has adapted their recipes to be healthy alternatives to regular Cambodian cooking. Cricket House snacks are sun-dried, rather than deep-fried, for example. Lundy hopes this will educate consumers that it’s possible to enjoy their favourite foods while eating more healthily. Additionally, the crickets at Cricket House are fed organic vegetables (grown at Cricket House, of course) to ensure the end result is the best possible quality of insect protein for their customers.
The uneven road to success
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 as a younger woman, is that when I talk to the farmers, they assume I don’t have as much experience and knowledge as they do. This leads them to be reluctant to try our new methods.”
Lundy’s optimistic nature has allowed her to find the silver lining in this challenge, however, “I try involve their wives, as this opens the door to working with the whole farming family. It’s a great way of demonstrating that the whole family can benefit from our methods, and from working closely with the staff at Cricket House.”
A message to future female leaders
Lundy’s message for all women and girls in agriculture is simple:
“If you can dream it, you can do it. Work hard, learn hard and stay motivated!”