Cricket Reactors: the innovative idea behind a $1 million prize dispute

Scott Sutherland
September 27, 2013

When a team of five McGill University students won the $1 million Hult Prize on Wednesday, the news was quickly followed by word that they had stole a key part of their their award-winning pitch from fellow student Jakub Dzamba.

Dzamba's idea is the Cricket Reactor.

What looks like a tower made from reused water cooler jugs and soda bottles is actually an innovative portable farm, capable of producing 10,000 crickets — or about 5 kilograms of protein — every two months or so, with only 15 minutes of 'farming' work each day. Given that the recommended daily intake of protein for an adult is roughly 50 grams, just one of these reactors can feed two people with food left over. Add a second unit and you could feed a family of five with crickets to spare.

The design is self-sustaining, feeding the crickets with everyday waste from the kitchen or from local plants, and letting them go through their normal life-cycle to lay eggs before harvesting the adult crickets for food. This idea is praised as being far more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than raising livestock, while increasing overall food production. This is because the crickets produce very little waste themselves, and it frees up land that would otherwise be used as pasture or to grow feed for livestock to instead be used to grow crops for people.

Dzamba also came up with a far more simple design, similar to a collapsible laundry hamper. That allows it to be folded up and easily transported, but it can still produce the same number of crickets as the more permanent version.

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As for Dzamba's dispute with team Aspire, it seems they're still working that out. However, he already has a company established, called Third Millennium Farming, and he has a patent pending through McGill University for his cricket reactor design.

One benefit of Dzamba's whole plan is how the crickets are turned into a protein flour to be used in making food. Perform an online image search for 'crickets food' and you'll turn up plenty of pictures of whole crickets being served. That can, understandably, be pretty unappetizing for anyone whose culture doesn't regularly include insects on the menu. Being reduced to a flour instead, the insects can be used in a variety of dishes without invoking the 'ick' factor.

(Images courtesy: Alimentary Initiatives, 3MF)

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