Gym-N-Eat Crickets: Raising Bugs and Convincing People to Eat Them!

Shelby Smith
Gym-N-Eat Crickets LLC
Ames, IA
Gym-N-Eat Crickets LLC is a producer of sustainable, alternative protein snacks from farm-raised crickets. Unable to keep up with demand for these delectable little insects, I am looking to grow and scale my business with a contract grower model here in Iowa.
Gym-N-Eat Crickets LLC is a vertically integrated producer of sustainable, alternative protein snacks from farm-raised crickets. Currently, I raise all of my own crickets that go into my products, which I sell exclusively at farmers' markets.

To scale the business out of farmers' markets, there are two major milestones: a commercial kitchen/processing facility and a larger supply of crickets. I have begun to tackle both.

I bought a building in July on Main Street in Collins (southeast Story Co) to turn into a commercial kitchen. I am targeting October 1st as a fully-functioning, licensed facility. This will enable me to sell online and in retailers.

To increase my supply of crickets, I will be using a contract grower model. I plan to bring on my first two contract growers by early 2020. This will allow me to expand and stabilize my supply of crickets while offering growers a diversified income stream.

I think Iowa is uniquely positioned to flourish with a new market like this due to the familiarity of contract grower models in more traditional ag, readily available supplies, and forward-thinking growers. Where many of my competitors have resorted to sourcing their crickets overseas in order to scale quickly, I think there is value in developing the supply chain right here in Iowa.

The insect protein market falls under the fast-growing alternative protein umbrella. In 2018, the worldwide insect protein market was approximately $426 million. The most recent predictions project the market to swell to nearly $8 billion by 2030.
My name is Shelby Smith and I am the owner, founder, Chief-Frass-Scooper & Mother-of-Crickets at Gym-N-Eat Crickets LLC. I got into this business a little over 18 months ago. I played basketball in college and then over in Ireland where I also earned a Masters Degree at Trinity College in Dublin. While in Dublin, I landed a job as an equity derivatives trader for a Canadian bank. After about 3.5 years, I found myself very unsatisfied with the finance world and handed in my notice.

I moved back to the family farm outside of Ames that fall and started farming with my dad. After harvest, he encouraged me to check out some niche markets. On January 1st of 2018, I sent him an article about a woman raising crickets for human consumption, and 9 days later, I bought my first 10,000 crickets.

Check out the Greetings From Iowa Episode summarizing the journey here:

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