Waiting at traffic lights, and suddenly a scooter whizzed around me to cut into the first row. Three people on the bike, one helmet. I’m shaking. It’s my first time in Chiang Mai’s rush hour, on a scooter. In my mind, I’m trying to forget the statistics I saw the day before – the world’s highest road death rates: Liberia 3rd, Malawi 2nd, Thailand 1st.
I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as part of our quest to make cricket flour affordable. After our first production of SENS bars in March 2017, Daniel (my co-founder) and I realised that this ingredient will rise and fall with two things – price and capacity. We have to be ready for the first super-retailer to order 100 000 SENS bars. And for that, we need to have cricket flour ready.
We source our cricket flour from Thailand, the best place to get the highest quality cricket flour for a reasonable price. Our partner is a frenchman, Nicolas. And luckily, he has a similar vision – a BFF a big fucking farm on a scale that would bring the price down. Because of the weather and know-how, we knew the place had to be Thailand. But it’s quite a hard thing to do- to persuade investors from Europe to finance a cricket farm in Thailand.
Nico supplied the insect expertise, Daniel put it to robust Excel spreadsheet, and I simplified the 50-page business plan to a short 10 slide presentation, called a pitch deck. The usual problem for startups with financial models is that a non-existing market is hard to measure. So on top of the project being in Thailand, it’s quite hard to project the growth of the world’s cricket flour market. That’s why discussions with an investment fund didn’t go well. We had to find a believer, a true innovator. And we did- we shook with one of this kind. The project was almost ready to begin.
The last step was missing. After months of negotiations and a pile of money spent on lawyers, someone had to physically check everything in Thailand. So there I was, on a scooter, in Chiang Mai rush hour, with a printed deal in my backpack for Nicolas to sign, to assure our investor that the building really stands, for real.
I arrived safely at the farm. Our new test cricket eggs had just hatched. The first official production will be this March. If everything goes well, by the end of 2018 our Cricket Lab will be the biggest cricket farm in the world. Research and development will be the core of the farm’s success. There is a lot to improve. Current farms are usually as primitive you can imagine. No automation, and no technology. Farmers throw the feed with their own hands. We want to change that. Our aim is to make crickets cheaper than chicken.