Developing crickets energy bars

Who, what, how, when, why interview

Developing crickets energy bars, and pure cricket powder


WHO are you? 

Shelby Smith, Owner/Founder, Gym-N-Eat Crickets LLC

WHAT did you do?

I have built the only vertically integrated network of farms devoted to raising crickets for human consumption in the US.

HOW did you do it?

Believe it or not, I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a cricket farmer. I grew up in Iowa on our conventional family farm before going off to college to play basketball in Philadelphia and eventually overseas in Ireland. While in Ireland, I earned a Masters Degree at Trinity College in Dublin and then worked as an equity derivatives trader for a Canadian bank before returning home to the family farm.

In January of 2018, I decided to pursue this crazy idea of raising crickets for human consumption. I bought my first 10,000 crickets and headed to the kitchen to start experimenting. I developed several flavors of whole roasted crickets, energy bars, and pure cricket powder.I spent my first two summers at farmers markets feeling out demand and perfecting recipes. Much to my surprise, people LOVED them. So much so that I sold out many weekends. I knew that if I really wanted to grow this business, I was going to need to figure out how to raise more crickets.

Initially, I expanded my own operation. We constructed the cricket castle in the Spring of last year which increased my production capacity by 5x. Despite that, I still spent a portion of the month of August sold out. It was clear that I couldn’t and I didn’t want to do this alone.

So, I turned to a contract grower model to expand my cricket supply. For growers, I offer guidance for facility design, provide them with their starter crickets, teach them how to raise crickets and trouble-shoot issues with the cricket rearing course and a comprehensive growing manual, and ultimately, guarantee the sale of their crickets at the end of each growing cycle. To date, I have eight growers at various stages of scale-up

Last summer I bought a building in the small town of Collins, Iowa and turned it into my licensed processing facility. This allowed me to begin selling my products online and in retailers. Since launching my online store in December '19, I have shipped to 43 states and can be found on the shelves of over 15 retailers.

WHEN did you start your company?

I have been raising bugs and convincing people to eat them since January of 2018.

WHY are you innovating with this product or service?

Current projections predict that the global population will top 10 billion people by 2050. In order to be able to feed that large of a population from a protein standpoint, current agricultural production will need to double or more. Crickets use a fraction of the food, water, and land to produce the same amount of protein as traditional animal sources (chicken, pork, beef). Because of their resource efficiency, they are one possible solution to the impending food and feed security issue.

WHERE are you from?

I am originally from Iowa, which is where I currently reside. 


Agriculture, Food & Beverage