Cowboy Cricket Farms of Belgrade was given an award in Special Recognition of their family business for the State Farm Family awards. The awards are made each year by the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship.
James and Kathleen Rolin started Cowboy Cricket Farms in the venture of developing a “super cricket” from which to make a food supplement that has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil.
Cowboy Cricket Farms recently received a $57,384 grant from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology, with matching funds from the company.
The idea for Cowboy Cricket Farms came from Kathy in the Spring of 2016 while attending MSU’s nutrition program. From a food fundamental course, she learned about the idea of food sustainability and alternative protein, of which insects contribute both. With this knowledge, Kathy approached James bout starting a cricket farm in Bozeman. James became intrigue with the idea after discovering entomophagy (the eating of insects) is increasing in popularity.
Both were leery about starting another business as they experienced financial hardship after a business of theirs failed during the recession. But, after several months of research into the financial feasibility, the couple got into contact with Dr. Florence Dunkle, a world renown Entomologist. With nothing but support and excitement from Dr. Dunkle, Kathy and James made the informed decision to move forward with the farm.
Finding a suitable commercial building was difficult, but after a three months search they finally found a business owner who was interested in renting to them.
With a starting population of 20,000 crickets, the farm officially had its start in January 2017. Family and friends helped to build the needed 13-foot high wooden racks for the vertical farm.
After many long hours of hard work, the farm is fully functioning today. The start-up was made possible by winning more than $26,000 in less than four month from four different competitions. All of the winnings were spent on infrastructure for the farm: racks, several pieces of kitchen equipment, and a commercial walk-in freezer. Also they hired two part-time employees for research and development of food products containing crickets.
James’ duties primarily consists of marketing and cricket maintenance, while, Kathy works on the food aspect of crickets with two highly qualified employees. Though their kids are young (ages 3, 5, and 7) they still lend a hand at the farm.
The oldest, Elise, enjoys helping with the many farm tours and labeling Chocolate Chirp cookies with her sister, Olive. Liam, the youngest, mostly eats the crickets, but takes adorable pictures while doing so.