From Producer to User
This is a simplified flow chart of our short term business model that resembles the flow of an Entomon: starting with raw material to final product and user.
*NGO stands for non-governmental organizations.
There are many initiatives to assist farmers in Latin America to diversify their incomes. Neighboring farmers commonly plant the same crops as each other. When they sell their yields, markets become saturated thus profits drop significantly.
When we approached the Norman Borlaug Institute with our idea during the semester, they saw Entomon as a potential catalyst for this effort.
The purpose of our endeavors in Latin/South America is to establish Entomon's credibility. We understand that a new product cannot be successfully employed in other nations (or made available to consumers in markets) without a real-world set of trial and errors. Therefor, we are utilizing our immediate resources to create a financially viable pilot-program to test our product before expanding to other regions and cultures.
Our goals will be to understand the problems of our first-adopters, further develop the product and methods to reflect their needs, improve the barrel distribution and conversion process, and strengthen our supply-chain ties for the future.
During our initial launch in Latin America, we will undoubtedly face opportunities and matters that we have yet to encounter--and these insights will assist in our approach towards international affairs.
This "Long Term" canvas is how we currently foresee the differences in our two business models. It considers multiple factors that will be better understood as we continue to move forward.
Fish farming is well established. It has been around for centuries and became increasingly popular when wild fish populations were no longer viewed as a sustainable source for growing demands. Over the past 40 years, aquaculture feed production has rapidly expanded in order to satisfy the appetites for fish in a variety of fish farms.
Dr. Albert G.J. Tacon, aquatic research director of Aquatic Farms Ltd. in Hawaii wrote, "If aquaculture is to play a major role in the food security of low income developing countries as a much needed and affordable source of high-quality animal protein, then it is essential that the farmed species be produced using low-cost sustainable farming methods." (http://www.fao.org/livestock/agap/frg/ECONF95/PDF/TACON.PDF). Much of the input cost of aquaculture lies in the expensive feed, "In order to maintain profitability, farm-made aquafeeds present a much cheaper option for farmers compared to commercial aquafeeds. In contrast to industrially produced aquafeeds, farm-made aquafeeds allow the small-scale farmer to tailor feed inputs to their own financial resources and requirements, and facilitate the use of locally available agricultural products which may otherwise have limited use within the community." (For example, crickets in a culture that may not practice entomophagy).
I began to wonder if I could feed the goldfish outside my house with the crickets that we raise. I took about two hundred 3 week-old crickets from my Entomon and placed them into the freezer (this is the most humane way to harvest crickets for consumption because they enter a dormant state that slows their metabolism). Then I baked them in the oven and ground the crickets to a flakey state that resembles store-bought fish feed. I placed my GoPro camera at the bottom of the pond, spread the cricket flakes, and watched the fish feast.
In western applications, where entomophagy is relatively scarce, insect farming is still applicable for feeding livestock. Aquafeed for carnivorous fish species is very dependent on fishmeal (processed fish) for dietary protein. In the last decade, demand for fishmeal has exceeded supply causing prices to increase dramatically. As a result, the use of essential, protein-rich fishmeal has become a ingredient in aquafeed. Crickets could be supplemented as a valuable protein alternative.
The video link above contains a lot of great information from the World Nutrition Forum that discusses the economical and environmental challenges faced by the aquaculture industry. The whole talk is insightful, but the video will begin at 16:06 to jump into pertinent information on the topic. Go back to 10:16 if you have some extra time.
Watch the first three minutes of this video from where it begins (it's quite entertaining).
In Thailand, children scavenge the areas around their homes for crickets after a day at school. The following day, the children bring their previously caught crickets to be combined with other children's collections, and this constitutes their daily lunch. Essentially, these children feed themselves during school by picking insects from fields the day prior.
Entomon has tremendous potential in situations like this. We have reliable material that can be easily managed and stored, even by young children. With multiple Entomons (and some supervision), these children could be taught methods to farm massive amounts of crickets for their classmates and their lunches. The information pertinent to raising crickets could be integrated in an approach to teach/learn fundamental ideas in biology--and could thus improve their skills in rearing the crickets. Children would in turn discuss these processes with their parents and could engage them in cricket farming as well.
Here is another important point we haven't emphasized quite enough:
An Entomon will always be coupled with education.
And education for successfully raising and breeding crickets is not very difficult. A cricket's life cycle is short and the Entomon upkeep is not laborious. Naturally, crickets raise themselves. Being a self-taught cricket farmer is certainly a challenge, as I have had a few failures in my last five months of raising crickets. However, these factors were controlled and improved--and we now have successful yields with our product.
We are currently working to develop instructional material to integrate with methods of correctly raising crickets through an Entomon... so that even school children can do it.
In the blog about our Texas A&M challenge, Garrett mentions "...yes, that's right, other students at A&M are farming crickets, too." And this is true. We have two friends who live together that manage their own Entomon with over two thousand crickets. We usually make a weekly trip to their garage. We check their temperature and humidity levels, thoroughly learn about any problems they have, assist with the upkeep, and generally maintain the lives of the crickets. Since our beta users are close to us, monitoring their progress isn't difficult--but what about people who are using our product in other countries? In our current position, questions like this aren't the easiest to answer. If Entomon employees, NGOs, or members from other aid-organizations were first taught to use our product and the rearing process, then they could in turn console regional users on their trials and the upkeep necessary to have persistent yields. This is where Entomon has the potential to create jobs, too!
However, there are other ways to maintain correspondence as well. Nonetheless, this is an integral part in our products success and we are continuing to seek out the best way to educate and ensure our users success.