Cricket One, a pioneering Vietnamese edible insect startup, has marked a significant milestone with the inauguration of what it asserts to be the largest cricket processing facility in Asia. Situated in Binh Phuoc, north of Saigon, the newly established facility is poised to handle an initial annual processing capacity of 1,000 metric tons of crickets, with ambitious plans to scale up production to 10,000 tons within the next five years.
Concurrently, the company has successfully concluded a series A funding round, the specifics of which remain undisclosed but are described as a “seven-figure” sum. The Series A funding round was spearheaded by prominent Singaporean investor Robert Alexander Stone, bolstered by the participation of Cub Capital, and received support from a well-known Singapore-based family office.
Founded in 2016 by Nam Dang and Bicky Nguyen, Cricket One started making cricket products for sale in late 2017. At first, they got their crickets from local cassava farmers and used old shipping containers for processing. But since then, they’ve changed how they do things, as co-founder Nam Dang explained to AgFunderNews.
Unlike most edible insect companies that mainly focus on making food for animals, Cricket One is doing something different. They’re making a variety of products for both people and pets. These include cricket protein powders, textured cricket meat, cricket snacks, and health supplements.
Cricket One’s distinctive business model merges centralized processing with decentralized farming. Farmers are guided in constructing cricket sheds equipped with farming resources and knowledge by Cricket One. These farmers exclusively supply crickets to the company, fostering an active and collaborative partnership. Approximately 45% of Cricket One’s current output is sourced from these third-party farmer sites. The company also undertakes cricket farming, with processing operations centralized in a certified factory.
“While farming under the decentralized model is quite standardized and scalable, allowing us to increase capacity several times almost immediately, the processing factory often becomes the bottleneck due to the time required for construction, machine procurement, and certification,” said Nam Dang. “However, with this factory expansion, we now have enough manufacturing room for expansion in the next few years.”
Cricket One places paramount importance on optimizing the nutrition of their crickets. Collaborating closely with the Vietnam National University of Agriculture, they have developed over 60 feed recipes, predominantly derived from upcycled agricultural waste, such as cassava tops.
Automation and scalability are the cornerstones of Cricket One’s cost-effective edible insect production approach. Mechanization has substantially reduced the time required for critical processes, such as harvesting, with a transformation from 10 minutes to a mere 20 seconds for a one sqm breeding container.
Market demand for cricket-based products spans human food, pet food, and animal feed sectors. Cricket One currently collaborates with 15 distributors worldwide, servicing 20 markets. Notably, the company is the sole manufacturer outside the European Union authorized to sell cricket protein within the region.
While the human edible insect industry is rapidly gaining traction in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, Cricket One observes that Asia lags behind Europe in product innovation, with a preference for consuming whole insects. However, the company is pioneering the incorporation of cricket powder into various snack applications for the Asian market, aiming for cost-effective and sustainable nutrition while challenging the dominant shrimp snack market in Vietnam.
Cricket One also acknowledges the challenges of cultural barriers to edible insect consumption in Europe but highlights the region’s exceptional levels of product innovation, variety, and market education. Numerous startups and SMEs in Europe are driving this transformative change, and major retailers in countries like Germany, France, Italy, and the Czech Republic are expected to offer insect-based products in the near future.
Cricket One asserts that growth in this sector is closely linked to product innovation and robust market education. Hence, they are venturing downstream by introducing cricket snack brands like Rec Rec in Vietnam. Additionally, they offer semi-finished products, including chips, coated crickets, and third-generation snacks, facilitating faster and more accessible product launches for their clients.
In pet food and animal feed, Cricket One sees promise and high consumption rates but underscores the necessity of scientific-driven approaches, extensive R&D trials, and cost optimization to make this segment viable.
Cricket One unveiled its maiden consumer product, Rec Rec, in February. The initial products under the Rec Rec brand include seasoned whole crickets, which have gained popularity in nearly 200 retail outlets and prominent e-commerce platforms in Vietnam. The company plans to launch cricket chips in October to challenge Vietnam’s $200 million shrimp snack market.
Cricket One is positioning itself as a pioneering force in sustainable and cost-effective cricket production, offering various products catering to human and animal consumption.