Excerpted from Solution Nation: One Nation is Disproportionately Responding to the World’s Most Intractable Problems
Hargol is radically boosting output and reducing the costs of raising grasshoppers at its, and the world’s, first commercial grasshopper farm. According to my discussions with management, Hargol should be able to produce at least five million grasshoppers and achieve at least 30 tons of grasshopper biomass annually from its 1,200 square meter grasshopper plantation.
Hargol is ramping up the insects’ breeding cycle. Typically, female grasshoppers productively lay eggs three times in their lives and each event produces approximately 80 eggs. The Company’s proprietary incubation process has accelerated the grasshopper egg hatching period from 40 weeks to two weeks. This enables Hargol’s grasshoppers to complete 10 breeding cycles a year, compared to one or two cycles per year in the wild, depending on the climate.
The Company is striving to optimize its grasshopper feeding regimen. While grasshoppers are partial to wheat grass, Hargol is blending various grass types with other feed to improve the feed conversion ratio. Other factors that go into such calculus include distributing the appropriate portions of feed to each cage. Water need not be provisioned as grasshoppers get adequate water from their feed. Efforts are being made to both minimize related labor costs and to automate the feeding, waste handling and harvesting processes.
One of the Company’s biggest competitive advantages is its vertically stacked grasshopper cages. Stacking cages of grasshoppers as high as two meters is one of the reasons that Hargol can achieve ten times more biomass per square foot than cricket farmers. These partially open, well-ventilated cages cost about 90% less to construct than comparable cages used in cricket farming. (Rest assured that I pummeled Hargol’s management for more color on how such dramatic costs savings were achieved. Except for explaining that Hargol’s cages prevent direct contact between grasshoppers and wood or plastics, which the grasshoppers might chew through, Hargol’s executives were quite cagey on the issue.)
Hargol’s cages are designed to facilitate the flow of feces from the higher cages down to the ground level, rendering feces removal from the entire structure much more efficient. Hargol’s climate controlled cages enable temperatures, humidity levels and lighting to be easily modulated which is critical for achieving location agnostic, year-round grasshopper farming. The combination of managing humidity and removing feces inhibits the production of harmful ammonia which would otherwise kill some of the grasshoppers and, at best, be unpleasant for the workers.
Finally, the Company plans to leverage its fixed costs by generating high levels of revenues from serving multiple market segments. Hargol is planning to pursue sales related to grasshopper powders for human consumption in developed countries; grasshoppers for pet foods suitable for cats, dogs, and reptiles; animal (fish) feed; and, whole grasshoppers for developing countries.
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