I Spent the Summer Eating Bugs. Crickets to be Specific

By Emily Little

In the last year I have had the honor of representing Bowling Green State University in the Ohio Export Internship Program. A selective classroom/internship experience hosted through a partnership between The Ohio State University and The Ohio Development Services Agency.

The class was designed to train undergraduate students in international exporting. The training was done through interactive lessons taught by the students and class speakers from the field of exporting. After the spring semester of class the 2015 cohort was paired with small to medium sized companies throughout the state of Ohio.

I was paired with Big Cricket Farms, located in the recovering rustbelt city of Youngstown, OH. Big Cricket Farms is the first urban cricket farm in North American. What makes Big Cricket Farms truly unique is the company’s specialization.  Big Cricket Farms provides gourmet frozen crickets… for human consumption.

To further set Big Cricket Farms apart, this summer BCF became the first cricket farm in America and the second farm in the western world, to receive a frozen food processors license. Big Cricket Farms is on the forefront of the next wave of the protein revolution.

My experience over summer has allowed me to flourish not only as a person but as a young business professional. I grew from inexperienced intern to product-developing international sales expert. During my time at Big Cricket Farms I was able to learn the ins and outs of an industry starting to develop its roots in the United States.

Originally, I was brought in to reach out and develop the international market. Soon it became evident the demand from the domestic market far outweighed what Big Cricket Farms could currently produce. So I adjusted my approach, focusing on creating a more efficient shipping method. I made contact with several providers and established the necessary requirements for dry ice shipments.

After the shipping process was laid out I began preparation for the Midwest Buyers Conference, a conference featuring integral Midwest food producers and international buyers. In addition to preparing country and company backgrounds for our meetings at the conference, I took it upon myself to create a sample product. I received the go ahead from upper management with the parameters that the product could not cost the company any money, I started my search for potential partners.

By chance, I came across a small energy bar producer called ERG! Energy Bars, located in Traverse City MI. The startup specializes in all natural fruit and grain energy bars. The owners were excited to experiment with crickets as an ingredient in their protein bar line. We were able to create what have now been coined “Bug Bites,” a mix of crickets, cherries, apples and hot banana peppers for a kick of flavor. Bug Bites are Big Cricket Farms first venture into the value added product market.

The bars quickly became a hit with the farm employees and the international buyers. Since their first development Big Cricket Farms has ordered several follow up sample packs for events. The bars will be featured in the upcoming Taste of Huron food event and were present at the Children Museum of Madison WI first Adult Swim event of the season.

Since the completion of my internship I have returned to Bowling Green State University to recruit for the Export Internship Program. My experience offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity, furthering not only my career but my personal growth.

In an effort to extend my experience to other BG students I am in the process of developing an EIP program here at BGSU. It is my goal to recruit a class of Bowling Green students who will telecommute to the Ohio State University. If the first class is successful BGSU will become the Northwest Satellite location for the Ohio Export Internship Program.

Bowling Green State University has offered me so many opportunities I am excited to bring a program that will give back.