Feeder Cricket Ranch - Douglas and Kim Vogel

Feeder Cricket Ranch – Douglas and Kim Vogel

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.

Anastasia Filipenko is a health and wellness psychologist, dermatolist and a freelance writer. She frequently covers beauty and skincare, food trends and nutrition, health and fitness and relationships. When she's not trying out new skincare products, you'll find her taking a cycling class, doing yoga, reading in the park, or trying a new recipe.

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