Moorhead Cricket Farm turns to selling live insects for reptile food and bait

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Inside the rented garage of a run-of-the-mill concrete block building in an industrial park in Moorhead, summer never ends.

Interior temperature

planes 80 degrees

, even as strong winds blow outside. The air smells earthy, organic and, to the untrained nostril, unidentifiable. (Spoiler alert: It’s cricket droppings.) And a symphony of male crickets – all resembling tiny false violins – continue to squeak, squeak, squeak in their hopeful efforts to attract a willing mate.

Welcome to the Revier Family Farms.

Here Pat Revier and his nephew, Thomas Theilen, run what is arguably the community’s first and only cricket farm. Their days are filled with incubation, feeding, watering, packing and shipping.

European house crickets

, ranging from tiny “pin-headed” babies to plump and stately adults.

Last February, Pat and his wife, Madeline, first shared their plan to raise crickets to dry and grind into cricket “flour”.

Flour rich in protein and nutrients

Gaining popularity among elite athletes and some customers with gluten allergies.

Barely 10 months later, the Reviers operation has become the equivalent of an insect farm, with over a million Jiminies chirping, eating, mating and laying eggs in the 300 or so bins. shelves stacked atop three towering rows of wooden shelves.

The pet, “Tammy”, watches with interest as Pat Revier shows off a batch of his wife’s popular chocolate chip cookies. Madeline Revier replaced about 1/3 cup of the flour in the recipe with protein-rich cricket flour with no noticeable difference in taste, appearance or texture. TAMMY SWIFT / The Forum

Wanted, dead or alive: crickets

News of the Reviers’ new venture had already resulted in pre-orders for cricket flour.

But for them, the pandemic has been a double-edged sword, Pat says. On the one hand, it created the perfect opportunity for them to quit their jobs and start cricketopia. But on the other hand, the drying equipment needed to dehydrate crickets comes from China, already bogged down by equipment shortages and traffic jams.

The Reviers want a specific type of insect dryer designed for high speed results and smaller operations. They have now found a manufacturer in Canada to build a small scale “microwave dryer” for them. In fact, the cricket treatment has become so popular lately that the Canadian company told the Reviers that it had recently received several requests to make smaller dryers.

The wait, they hope, will be worth it. The huge ovens that big companies use to dehydrate crickets can take over 5 hours to complete the process. But a microwave dryer takes up less space and can dehydrate a real pile of hoppers in 15-20 minutes. “We don’t have a lot of people so we have to use something that saves as much time as possible,” says Pat.

Although their new manufacturer is closer to home, building the specialized equipment could take several months. “We currently have over a thousand pounds of crickets in the freezer that we can’t do anything with,” Pat says.

Jumping lunch for the lizards

For now, the Reviers have pivoted into selling live crickets – either as live food for pet reptiles or as bait for fishermen. Pets geckos, bearded dragons, and iguanas

axolotls

are just a few of the animals that love a good casserole dish of crickets.

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Pat Revier shows one of the European house crickets from Revier Family Farms. By TAMMY SWIFT / The Forum

“We just ran into this,” Pat says. “We had no intention of selling them directly. But we had people who came to see us because

there is a national shortage of crickets and other eating insects.

Pet stores are always in short supply.

Additionally, cricket farms often do not ship crickets to Upper Midwestern reptile owners for fear they will freeze.

The Reviers hope to fill this niche and ship their crickets to the Upper Midwest.

So how do they prepare their crickets for winter travel? Rather than investing in tiny earmuffs, the Reviers have perfected their packaging to include more durable heat packs and enough room for air circulation.

In fact, the Reviers have received rave reviews from satisfied customers for the healthy hops in their hoppers.

“If they have enough ventilation, space, food and water, they will stay healthy,” Pat says.

Their crickets are fed a carefully balanced diet consisting of soybeans, corn, wheat, blood meal, bone meal, brewer’s yeast and powdered milk, Pat explains. It is designed not only to breed chirps, but also to create a healthy food source for the reptiles that eat them. “This is one of the things Madeline has researched extensively,” Pat said.

Their chirpy products also have a move price tag: a box of 100 live adults sells for $ 9, which is significantly lower than most retail prices. Pat estimates that they fill about 10 orders per week, but have the capacity to fill a lot more.

Initially, the couple relied on word of mouth for their sales, but plan to increase awareness of their name and increase their income through a new website with an online store, created by the brother-in-law of Pat,

Shawn Hagen of Simple Website Creations.

Another family member lends them his marketing expertise: Mike Brevik of

CyberDogz

, who is married to Pat’s niece, linked them to

a Google Ads expert

which helps in developing an online strategy to drive more traffic to their site.

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Pat Revier with one of the cricket vats. Each bin contains stacks of egg cartons, where crickets like to retreat to hide. Crickets are actually territorial creatures: males will fight if they don’t have enough personal space. They also like to nibble on the fibrous material from recycled egg cartons. By TAMMY SWIFT / The Forum

In an effort to create another source of income, Pat works with a local fishing guide

to see if they can popularize the concept of using crickets as bait for winter fishing.

One caveat among bait sellers is that crickets are great for catching crappies and other crappies in the summer, but are not something fish would naturally consume in the winter.

But Pat points out that waxworms are routinely used for winter fishing, even though they wouldn’t naturally be available for fishing when the colder season hits.

Now the Reviers are anxiously waiting to see how the Cricket Guide’s winter fishing goes. Pat says he’d like to prove firsthand that fish are crazy about crickets all year round, but he’s been too busy tending to and surrounding the nervous critters.

“I haven’t had much time lately to go fishing,” he says wryly.

Orders can be placed by

https://revierfamilyfarms.com/

Where

@revierfamilyfarms

on Facebook.

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The storage space where Reviers keep their crickets is kept at a mild temperature of 80 degrees (or more) in the winter. If the temperatures get too cold, the insects will not breed as much. By TAMMY SWIFT / The Forum

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