WINDSOR – Hants County has farms of all kinds: dairy, produce, orchards, wine.
But in the heart of Windsor is a different kind of farm. The product is small and noisy but quite plentiful.
Joy Hillier, president of the Midgard Insect Farm in Windsor produces crickets.
They started operations in May 2016 and are already expanding, thanks, in part, to a major investment from Dane Creek Capital Corp., an Ontario-based investment firm.
Midgard grows and harvests thousands of crickets, which will be used as protein in pet products owned by DCCC. Hillier said major expansions are already underway, with a goal of harvesting four million crickets every six weeks.
Hillier got the idea to start a cricket farm following a TED Talk by Marcel Dicke, a specialist in insects.
“He made the case for how insects were going to be the next big sustainable protein source,” she said. “I did some research and realized that this is doable.”
The crickets are relatively easy to care for; they require heat, a specific humidity level, food and water.
“They are pretty simple creatures, but of course growing them on a massive scale is way different than growing them on a smaller scale,” she said.
The crickets subside on a modified poultry grain feed, which is grown locally. They are a tropical species, so if they were to get out, they wouldn’t last long in this climate.
“It took some getting used to, because they are insects, so we were a little gingery about them, but now we’re totally used to them,” said Hillier, a trained veterinary technician. “I didn’t think these were the type of animals I’d be spending my life with.”
Hillier said the company is currently focused on cricket consumption for animals at this point, but consumption for humans is possible down the road.
“There is some trepidation, but most millennials, people I know, have been to Thailand or been somewhere where they’ve eaten bugs,” she said. “They’re also practical and realize that the agricultural system is going to need upgrading and innovation in order to get us to the population we’re expected to grow to by 2050.”
Midgard currently has two employees, but that will grow as the company expands and could mean as many as 15 local jobs created in the next 18 months.
Part of that will involve a 1,500-sq.-ft. research facility for Midgard in association with Perennia, a non-profit corporation in Bible Hill.
The second Midgard location will allow Hillier to work closely with Perennia’s team of food research scientists and nutritionists with a, initial focus on consistency, an issue that has challenged the industry, a release said.
Hillier said the crickets produce a waste product, called frass, which is similar to manure but obviously, on a much tinier scale.
She already uses the frass to grow herbs and vegetables at the office in Windsor and said she’s looking for a bigger home for the frass when the operation expands.
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