Douglas and Kim Vogel founded Feeder Cricket Ranch in 2018. Douglas had experimented with a few business concepts as he neared retirement age from the construction consulting practice he started in 1994. Doug had managed the construction of large commercial building projects and testified in large commercial construction disputes. Kim was employed as an early childhood education professional. Doug was looking to leave the travel, suits, conference rooms and contentious business environment behind and pursue a more positive business and business environment in his golden years. He had attempted to raise crickets a few years previous after seeing a news program featuring one of the early adopters of insects as food, Wendy Lu McGill, founder of the Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch. His early efforts were unfruitful and ofttimes comical.
In 2017 Kim Vogel, Doug’s business partner and wife, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery and intense physical therapy for several months thereafter. The resulting recovery required Doug and Kim to retire from their careers and focus on Kim’s recovery. In late 2018 as Kim became less dependent on Doug for assistance, the challenge of providing for Kim’s continued recovery reignited Doug’s interest in the cricket farming concept. This provided a possible cottage business that he could build to stay busy and stay available to assist Kim. Doug initially started and still operates Feeder Cricket Ranch to primarily serve the bearded lizard enthusiasts and other amphibian pet owners with live cricket delivery directly to their door. www.feedercricketranch.com
The hours with crickets and the research available led Doug to his present effort to raise crickets for protein powder as an alternative protein for pet food. There was little guidance and information on large scale rearing of insects available in 2018 compared to today. This was especially on the rearing of tropical crickets at 7,500 feet above sea level. Doug had to assure Kim that the crickets would not survive the mountain environment if they escaped the garage. This also ensured the ranch would not impact the existing mountain ecology with an invasive species.
Doug began the cricket rearing experiments in the detached garage; experimenting with habitat, food, moisture and egg production. Failed nursery attempts, material issues and the challenge of purchasing every plastic storage bin within a 50-mile radius were the fruits of being a start-up. The consistent 87-degree temperature maintained in the garage during the cold Colorado mountain winters produced concerning communications from the local utility on abnormal energy usage and the utility bills to match. Doug continued to study the gryllodes sigillatus, or banded cricket to maximize the insect reproduction and decrease the footprint of the farm. He included mealworms to the farm for waste reduction. The research of the cricket and mealworm potential as alternative protein sources eventually led Doug and Kim to start a yet unnamed company to the pursue the large-scale production of cricket protein powder for incorporation into pet food for the U.S. market. The change in focus was unanticipated but was primarily necessary to provide the resources to assist in Kim’s continued recovery and quality of life and an acknowledgement of the viability of the alternative protein industry growth. Doug and Kim are drawn to the socially responsible and environmentally friendly concepts that surround this business and the fledgling industry that is growing to support start-up operations like Feeder Cricket Ranch.
The cattle, swine and poultry producers that provide human and pet nutrition are facing rising costs in the production of the necessary quantities of protein needed by our growing population of people and pets. Political and social pressures concerning the treatment of the animals will continue to be a growing challenge for the meat producers. The continuing need for large land areas and water to raise and feed the cattle, pigs and chickens needed for human consumption competes with the consumers of the protein produced. This growing issue may well be met by insect populations. The environmental impact and energy use of the large meat processing plants and on-going challenges of profitable meat production while avoiding animal cruelty issues has spurred the search for more earth and animal friendly answers to the world’s populations need for quality protein. The possibility of providing one of the alternative proteins to meet the human and ecological challenges faced in present and future food and feed production appeals to Doug and Kim as parents and grandparents and stewards of the ranch.
Doug and Kim have completed their first pilot laboratory and are presently working on scaling up to an automated pilot cricket rearing and powder production facility. Doug still operates Feeder Cricket Ranch to serve the lizard, amphibian and fishing communities. Kim has continued her recovery and returned to the kitchen to help optimize the powder production processes. They have included the recovery and upcycling of supermarket waste to feed the crickets and the utilization of the cricket byproducts as fertilizer in studies in the ranch tomato greenhouse. The ranch includes the chicken population to ensure that no cricket or meal worm goes unconsumed. The mealworms handle all the remaining waste. Recent approval in the United States of specific insect provided animal proteins into dog food production indicates the research and experimentation of insects and food and feed continues to grow in popularity. (Ref. AAFCO) Feeder Cricket Ranch has provided crickets to Texas State University for a study of insect digestibility as bovine feed. They continue to seek other academic collaborations to further the study of insects as food and feed. Douglas has attended the Pet Food Forum held in Kansas City to discuss the coming industry future with the pet food producers. Doug also is a member of the North American Coalition of Insect Agriculture and attended the Insects to Feed the World Conference held in Quebec City, CN in early June 2022.
Doug and Kim are excited about the possibilities of the insects as feed and food industry. The reduction of food waste, reduction of negative environmental impacts of food production and food insecurity are our corporate goals. Doug and Kim are committed to building a business that brings value to their neighborhood, community and society while meeting Kim’s needs.