The Cockroach. It’s a loathed household pest but also a potential moneymaker. Taiwan based Robert Chen has turned cockroach breeding into a business scheme.
Insects are a common food source for many animals like hamsters, lizards and tree frogs. And since cockroaches are easy to breed, they are a popular choice among farmers and a sustainable high-protein food source. Also, many domestic pet owners are taking advantage of the ease of his service, realizing that cockroaches are both more nutritious for their pets and cheaper to buy. As Chen himself explains, cockroaches are high in protein and low in fat.
Source: National Geographic
Chen’s business is thriving. There’s such high-demand for Chen’s cockroaches that he’s expanding his business. Though Chen’s business is fast turning into an empire, it has a humble origin. He told Ruptly that, “Four years ago I had a pet tree frog. During that time, I raised different insects to feed it, including fruit flies, crickets and later cockroaches. Cockroaches reproduce very quickly, and it became my top preference.” Shortly after he discovered that cockroaches were the best for breeding, he got the idea to turn this solution into his primary source of income.
Once he gets an order, he packs them up in plastic and cardboard containers for delivery. Inside the containers are egg cartons, which the cockroaches enjoy running over. Despite the fact that Chen is Taiwanese himself, the cockroaches that he selected for breeding are not native to his home country. Rather, he chose them because they are the most well behaved. They never leave any of the containers that he places them in!
There’s another long term market opening up for Chen: human consumption. At the moment very few humans want to eat cockroaches, for obvious reasons. However, in the coming years, as overpopulation goes out of control and famine increases, many communities may not have much choice. The UN’s food and agriculture division even recently released a report that recommended the consumption of insects. The report claimed that insects are a more sustainable way to tackle pollution and global hunger. Apparently, insect breeding produces significantly less waste than animal breeding and at a much greater yield. So Chen’s business is not only great for farm animals and pets, it could also save the world!
Chen is technically not the first person to farm cockroaches. In China, cockroaches have been farmed for years. However, most of those cockroaches go to different markets than Chen’s. In traditional Asian medicine, cockroach is an important ingredient. Additionally, a range of Chinese cosmetic companies are keen on buying dead cockroaches, as they are a cheap source of cellulose. These Chinese farms, while not interfering with Chen’s business, are still strong money spinners for their owners. 1 pound of cockroaches sells for around $20, with the price fast increasing as demand ramps up. This is reportedly a much higher price than farming traditional livestock, such as pigs. Additionally, the overheads are far lower than with traditional livestock farming. Perhaps cockroach farming will be a big industry in America one day.
Header image source: Los Angeles Times