La Van Quy, a young ethnic minority man has brought a lucrative cricket farming model successful in lowland localities to his hometown in the northern mountainous province of Son La.
Quy, a 26-year-old member of Thai ethnic minority group in Muong Giang Commune, Quynh Nhai District, has earned a reputation as a keen businessman after launching a cricket farm with just VND1 million (US$43).
What many do not know is that his path to success was lined with countless setbacks.
Quy spent much of his early life under the care of his uncle after his parents passed away in a boating accident when he was just six months old.
As a teenager, he spent most of his school years juggling work and studies in order to help support his uncle’s family.
A major tragedy struck Quy a second time when his uncle died of a stroke just before his graduation from a local university in 2017.
All alone, the young man had only himself to rely on. Attempting to make ends meet, he cycled through a few jobs before stumbling across a model for a cricket farm and deciding to take a shot at the industry.
The man spent VND1 million from his savings and purchased his first batch of crickets which he kept in five trays inside his studio apartment. That was his first trial with crickets.
When it turned out to be successful, he decided to build his own farm.
“The model fits my budget and does not require much care. Besides, unlike in lowland localities, few have chosen to start cricket farms in mountainous areas like Son La,” Quy explained.
The young man turned to his lecturers at his college’s startup club for advice before borrowing more than VND10 million ($430) from his friends to buy dozens of large containers to breed the crickets.
Unfortunately, his first batch of crickets died en masse shortly before the harvest due to low levels of cleanliness in the farm and an imbalanced diet.
“That was a tough time for me. I was pretty much left empty-handed,” Quy recalled.
Undaunted by the losses, he began working in local cafés to earn enough money to restart his farm.
“I’m not a pessimist, even in the face of failure,” he said.
Despite the numerous roadblocks he has encountered since launching his cricket farm in 2018, Quy has been able to develop a stable market for his insects in Son La Province.
His secret lies in his 'three-clean' formula, which should be adopted if crickets are to enjoy a healthy lifespan of 45 to 50 days.
According to Quy, the formula involves hygienically ensured diets and cages.
As crickets are highly sensitive to external food sources, they can easily get sick and die if they consume vegetables tainted with pesticide residues.
The insects may also meet their doom if they get exposed to dechlorinated water or sick from pathogens thriving in mold-colonized environments when their cages are not cleaned regularly.
Healthy swarms yield good output on a monthly basis. He currently harvests and sells nearly 100 kilograms of crickets each month, raking in more than VND10 million ($430) in profits, with each kilogram fetching VND150,000 ($6.50).
Quy revealed that he is currently researching cricket-based products typical of the northwestern region, including cricket jerky and ‘khau xen’ (similar to prawn crackers) which please sophisticated palates and help consumers become more at ease with crickets at the center of their plates.
He also plans to expand his farm into a cooperative not only to secure himself financially but also to motivate others in the region to join the industry.
The new model will also provide jobs for local residents while gaining him access to incentive funding and opportunities to promote his products to promising markets.
“The most important thing for new businesses is passion, zeal, and determination to keep on in the face of failures. Though my college major was politics, I chose to do business in cricket breeding. We can only hold on to a job for a long time if we love it,” Quy shared.