BUHL, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - We've all heard of pea protein, whey, hemp and collagen, but the next health food craze might be a noisy bug found nearly all over the world.
Something is chirping on Eco Balance Farms in Buhl, Idaho as crickets take over a greenhouse farm, but they're not there to 'bug' the owners or cause a nuisance. Nutritionist Starla Barnes is raising them to be food for people.
"I was studying alternative proteins," Barnes said. "One of the proteins I used was crickets and found that it was actually very nutritious for humans as well and started looking into the edible side for human consumption."
Barnes said they're the first cricket farm in the area, and the start-up began in November of 2018.
Barnes recognizes that eating a bug could raise an eyebrow for some people.
"It's always 'Yuck. You eat those things?'" she said.
The crickets Barnes raises are commonly known as the house cricket, and she said they're rich with protein.
"Crickets carry all nine essential amino acids," Barnes said. "For humans they are very healthy. They have more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk."
Barnes said before starting the farm she had to find a suitable place to provide a heated source year-round.
"One of the thing that deters a lot of farms from growing crickets is that they don't have a heat-sources that are affordable year-round," she said.
Eventually the natural resources in town provided the support, such as geothermal water.
She partnered with Dean Moreno who serves as the CFO of the farm and said there's a market for the cricket industry.
Once the crickets have aged out, Barnes said they freeze them and ship them out to another company to have them made into powder for a food product.
"That is then used in say breakfast foods, muffins, breads, granola. Then it goes to protein bars. It will go into drinks," she said.
Moreno said they can make money off the cricket droppings too by selling a fertilizer called frass.