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208. Cowboy Crickets | Edible Insect Farming | James Rolin | Belgrade, MT
8th January 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:00:51

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Cowboy Crickets Farms


James Rolin and his family started Cowboy Crickets Farms in Belgrade about a year ago. After learning about bug nutrition at the Montana State University Bug Buffet. Now, they are farming millions of crickets.

So, it’s January 2, 2018 and school is closed today because of all the snow and so I’m doing this bonus episode with James from Cowboy Crickets Farms!

So we’re actually talking about Crickets you eat right? I’m sure my husband’s thinking cricket farming – fish bait. But I did read an article about you saying you learned about this at a MSU bug buffet?

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is James, my wife Cathy and I have lived all over the country. We were both in the Coast Guard that took us all over the place. I am still in the military I am aMedical Sargent in the MT National Guard. We have 3 children. We are living in Bozeman, MT.

We love doing everything outside and trying to get back to nature

  • rock climbing
  • ice climbing
  • adreniline junkies
  • anything that goes fast
  • love innovative things

I think that’s why the Cricket Farming appeals to us.

It’s become our whole life and we love it because we are truly at the cutting edge of agriculture innovation

Cutting Edge Cricket Farming

Where do you start? Do people eat them? Are they protein? or chocolate flavored.

So there’s many different ways! There’s many different ways to eat a cow, not every cow is made into hamburgers

we farm them here in belgrade montana

8 weeks for them to reach maturity

  • breed them,
  • harvest them
  • freeze them to euthanize
  • dehydrated
  • grind to a powder

Smokey Jumpers are a mesquite grade

Cowboy Crickets Farm Cricket Powder

powder manufacture

Cowboy Crickets Chocolate Chirp Cookies

Chocolate Chirp Cookies

You freeze them to euthanize them. That sounds pretty cruelty free if you had to die that sounds pretty painless.


Cruelty free

part of their natural life cycle

When it gets cold they go into stasis they basically fall asleep. So when it warms up the younger stronger ones wake up and they keep on hopping around living their little cricket lives. 

We basically emulate that.

We put them in the freezer.

After about 10 minutes they’re in stasis they look dead but they are really alive. If you took them out and put them in the warm farm that we keep at about 85º year round they would start hopping around again and living their happy little cricket lives. 

After about 20 minutes they are completely dead and ready to dehydrate.

That sounds cool. I’m what they call a pescatarian. One of the reasons I eat fish is the salmon they’re gonna come up and spawn and die and lay all over the bed of the creek dead and red! To me it’s almost like a waste to leave them there and its kind of a compromise with my husband. How long is a cricket gonna live anyway?

they’re maximum lifespan is about 8 weeks

Most die in the first days of life because they get eaten.

So we have the happiest healthiest crickets

they’re fed a

  • soy free
  • corn free
  • all organic diet
  • all grown in Montana diet

WE’ve done a huge amount of research over the last 8-10 months

how to make the best feed possible for these crickets so what we eat is what they get.

nutrition we get


by changing the

they have a fantastic life

because of how sustainable

we have a lot of vegans and vegetarians

very much animals

humane slaughter practices

extreme nutritional density of these insects.

Grab Some Grub Cowboy Crickets Farm

Basically perfect protein and vitamin b source for Vegan and Vegetarian customers even thought they are animals but people don’t seem to have the same type of ethical issues with eating a bug.

I mean if their life cycle is only 8 weeks they could be practically an adult before they are gonna die and become food anyway.

My curiosity is how big is your place that you are keeping 85º in Montana all year long? Is it a greenhouse? And how often do you have to harvest them?

Our facility is basically a warehouse. Back behind the airport in Belgrade. It’s only 1800 square feet but we have 17 foot ceilings. We use volume

Because of that we can grow up

7 layers of bins that we grow in. About 14 feet

We leave room at the top so we have good air flow

20 million cricket potential

Theoretially can fit 20 million crickets in our facility. We are no where near that we have abot 2-3 million at the moment. We just finished our last breed. We won’t start breeding again till the middle of January and then we will 10 million crickets. 

We will have 10 million living crickets at the time we are always harvesting as well.

Every year at capacity we can produce 48,000 pounds of crickets in our little facility. To give you an idea that’s 24 head of cattle! We do that on an 8 week cycle, instead of 2 year. As you said we’re harvesting them at end of life instead of beginning

  • humane
  • efficient
  • tasty
  • nutritional

Are people using it like protein because the other thing that drives me crazy is people are always telling me I should be eating hemp protein, I want to scream!  You can’t grow it here? My favorite treat for the break is popcorn with nutritional yeast is it spicy?

I have to say someone turned me onto the popcorn with the nutritional yeast.

This winter I found this yummy multi-colored organic popcorn and then I found avocado oil and nutritional yeast so much better! I also put Dr. Bragg’s amino acids with it. 

interesting that you bring that up


  • nutritional yeast more then sprinkling it on popcorn
  • something to put into their smoothie
  • like it for the novelty
  • most people buy it for nutrition
  • use it in other recipes

chocolate chirp cookies

difference is

we take out about 20% of the flour you get 10 grams of protein and a huge amount of iron

  • favorite recipe for breads
  • croissants
  • salad dressings
  • quite versatile

anything you can put powder in

We even have a hospital putting it in macaroni and cheese so their patients don’t have to survive on Ensure. 

Do you have anything to add?

Interesting things about their


Like with any animal crickets produce waste

The fertilizer is their droppings called FRASS

Just like any other kind of manure it’s a fantastic soil amendment so we sell

  • retail containers
  • bulk to farmers

high in nitrogen

in phospherous


another really unique feature

all insect FRASS tricks the plant into thinking it’s being attacked.

Increase production of secondary metabolites


  • peppers hotter
  • basil more basily

insects trying to eat these plants don’t like it!

The reason the chemicals exist in the plants they are like natural pesticides

using the FRASS before the insects get there

defensive trying to fend off insects

When bugs get close to the plants they are repelled


so you don’t have to use this many pesticides

creates odd effects for the insects

2 and one applicator of nutrition for your plants and protection for your plants.

This is so cool! I wasn’t even supposed to doing this today and I’m so glad because this is addressing so many questions I get from people. I’ve been creating this free garden course and one of the thins we’ve been talking about is soil and manure and where do you get good soil.

So my question is if people want to do this on a small scale can people do this on a small scale like they keep chickens or bees what’s the processing process like? Do you have to have a special freezer? how complicated is this?

Cowboy Crickets Farm YouTube Page


How To Farm Crickets

It’s not that complicated, but unfortunately there’s not that much literature

especially for food use

We are slowly working on a book that people can just download

But on our youtube page there is a series on there on how-to farm crickets that takes you step to step

  • temperature
  • humidity
  • daily routine
  • everything you need to know
  • Q&A

new videos

there are ways people can find out how 

in short it depends on where you live and what approach you take

in Louisiana you can probably have something

In Montana you’re gonna have at least at heater!


Can you do it seasonally? Like just in the winter?

you could do it seasonally, you would have to start with new crickets. 

They’re not going to go into stasis

lot of loss

naturally kept down as far as their numbers

only a few the youngest strongest ones wake up in the springtime

that natural way year round

if you were to keep them in your basement

heater room make sure they don’t get out because that gets annoying!

Start UP Costs

could do it on the cheap

It only takes about $50 to get started.

What’s the markets like? You said you’re selling them to hospitals. Do you have trouble shipping to markets? Are they light besides?

Well by the time you grind them up and turn them into a powder

It takes about 2500 crickets to make a pound of powder.

It doesn’t take much to transport them.

We are licensed food facility with both FDA and MT Department Health and Human Services.

We have our own commercial kitchen won’t have to rent kitchen space anymore

It’s not tough to cell them, the thing is you need to make quantities people want to buy

boutique make

flavored cricket each month

true commercial scale

You need to produce 1000s of pounds a month

That’s what we’re trying to build up to and it’s difficult takes time and space

Cricket Farmer Network

We’re developing network of cricket farmers who will use our methodology.



give them resources

They buy the equipment

get initial set up of crickets

use our feed

we’ll buy every pound of cricket they produce

don’t have to developing an entire business and brand off of it. Instead we take care of that.

Sign me up! I’m so interested. This is awesome! I feel like we could get this started this summer!

We’re super excited

look at our youtube videos

by hand manual way

We’re looking at an automation system. Something you set on a table top

one bin or 10k

software will control the hardware that controls the environment. 

You don’t have to go in every few days

You put it on the table and 8 weeks later you give them breeding material and then you harvest

people don’t have to have a huge



enormous support for our state. After a year of researching and doing this every day we finally have the methods for growing the crickets correctly. It”s not realistic for most crickets to do. 

this will take care of everything

couple of a hundred dollars for a system and it will pay for itself if you sell us the crickets.

I like all the pieces it is providing a nice protein. It’s healthy for people...