Minnesota Soybean Business

Mmmm, crickets: Northwest Minnesota farm is buggin’ out

September-October 2021

Chirp, chirp, chirp.

No that wasn’t awe-inspiring silence filling the room when Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen walked into a barn in Moorhead on an early July morning. While that would have been an acceptable response for Madeline and Pat Revier in their first encounter with Commissioner Petersen, the serenading came from the resident orchestra – of crickets.

The Revier Family Farms in Moorhead isn’t your typical farm, and they don’t have a typical barn. If one didn’t know the area, the bars on the windows of a nearby neighbor might scare visitors off. Once inside the building, the farm comes to life with rows and shelves of Tupperware cricket condos adorning the room.

“When we’re full we’ll have about 3 million in here,” Pat Revier said as he showed the commissioner and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Executive Director Joe Smentek the nearly half-million crickets already calling Revier Family Farms home. “Our plan initially was to harvest them, dry them and ground them into a flour and ship them off to companies looking for flour. We haven’t achieved that yet. We need to get some different equipment here. It hasn’t really been that easy.”

Nothing has been easy for the young couple. Pat, born and raised on a dairy farm, has found creative and unique ways to manage the cricket farm. He converted an old fridge into an incubator, first building in a heater and later replacing the heater with a computer fan.

“The heater that I installed was never turned on because the development process of the eggs creates enough heat that it actually gets too hot, so I had to install a fan to cool it down,” he said.

MSGA Executive Director Joe Smentek (left) looks on as MDA Commissioner Thom Petersen (left) speaks with Pat and Madeline Revier at their cricket farm in Moorhead.

The couple has tried using a maize grinder more suitable for a poultry operation and a cement mixer to combine the different feeds to create cricket meal. The blend comes from a 1970s scientific review of feeding byproducts to crickets.

“It’s soybeans, corn, wheat … used brewer’s yeast, blood meal and bone meal because they are naturally carnivores, and we need to get some of the meat in there,” Madeline said. “And then we use nonfat dried milk because they need all of that calcium to grow their exoskeleton.”

Noreen Thomas, a Moorhead organic grains farmer, provides the soybeans, corn and wheat. She also helped arrange the meeting between the Reviers and Commissioner Peterson.

“We don’t necessarily need organic, but we need crops that don’t use pesticides,” Pat said.
“We don’t want to be poisoning our little guys.”

Finding a market

For the Revier business to ultimately take off, the duo needs to get a commercial dryer to handle their orchestra. More specifically, the couple needs a microwave dryer, which lowers the drying time of a standard dryer from 5 hours to 7 minutes. And the couple needs a smaller unit than currently available.

“In the U.S. they only make really big ones,” Madeline said. “They are like a quarter of a million dollars, and they can process what we produce in months, in one day.”

The couple has literally searched the globe, inquiring in Asia, where the cricket industry thrives, until finding a company in Canada.

“There’s a company in British Columbia that manufactures them,” Pat said. “I called them and he said the same week that I called, four other people called inquiring about drying crickets. So they’re looking into it and looking to develop a smaller drier.”

The Reviers say they worry the wait will be more than a year. In the meantime, they are tackling other issues, such as the classification of their farm.

“We started working with AURI because there are no regulations in Minnesota,” Madeline said. “They set us up with someone and classified us as a small-scale livestock production.”

Unfortunately, as the couple shared with Commissioner Petersen, livestock grant opportunities don’t cover cricket farms. Petersen encouraged the couple to pursue value-added ag grants and to explore Minnesota Grown once their company is fully up and running.

“We also host shows for food buyers because, if you want to go to a food show and promote your products, it can be expensive,” Petersen said. “What we do is we take 20 to 25 companies and we put them up in our pavilion, and the buyers from grocery stores and similar industries come to the event. You can really get in front of them in our pavilion for nothing or next to nothing.”

Until then, the couple is left with a few options to keep their fledgling farm afloat: sell to the local live market and freeze the rest of the inventory.

“What we have right now is a freezer full of crickets, and we are starting to market toward to live market to people who feed their pets,” Pat said. “We’ve sold a few. There’s a pet rescue for exotic pets, and we’ve been providing them with crickets, and then NDSU gets crickets from us (for research).”

Asked if they have considered selling crickets to bait shops, the couple quickly ruled it out.

“It’s surprising how emotionally attached you get to these things,” Madeline said. “I think twice about killing insects now.”

Pat concurred: “I wouldn’t feel right putting a hook through one after all the time I’ve spent here.”



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