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Crickets swarm onto Finland's restaurant plates

Following a new interpretation of EU guidelines last year, foodies with a craving for crickets are in luck as cricket farms are popping up in Finland.

Syötäviä sirkkoja
Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

The cultivation and sale of insects as food products is on the rise in Finland. Last Autumn the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced it would adopt an interpretation of EU guidelines that other states already have in effect. Since then, a couple dozen crickets farms have popped up in Finland.

”People are very interested in insect farming. The first farms were established very quickly and after thast they have been increasing at a steady pace around Finland, both in the countrysides and city regions,” said superintendent Riina Keski-Saari of the Finnish Food Safety Agency, Evira.

Sami Vekkeli, CEO of Nordic Insect Economy estimates that both giant farming stations as well as small family farms will rise in Finland.

”At the moment the estimated supply produced yearly is around 10,000 kilos. In a year it will be at least 100,000 kilos, maybe even 200,000 kilos,” forecasts the bug-based food entrepreneur.

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Sirkkojen kasvatusalusta.
Crickets will grow to an edible size in five weeks while some can live up to a few months. Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

From pigs to crickets

The Siikonen family in Tammela made the decision to pull out of pig farming in favour of crickets last December. The continuation of pig farming would have required hefty investment in new equipment.

“We had to face the fact that we could never pay off the cost of the renovations through pig farming. We got rid of the pigs and a short while later we came across the idea of cultivating crickets in a local paper,” notes farmer Jouko Siikonen.

One of the charms of cricket farming was in the fact that a big lump sum was not required to get started.

“A good aspect of cricket farming was that you can start off the bat with a small volume of product, whereas with pig farming there is no choice but to begin with a large volume,” explains Siikonen.

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Jouko ja Kirsi Siikonen.
Jouko and Kirsi Siikonen's cricket farm houses a few million crickets in see through plastic containers. Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

The first crickets arrived to the Siikonen’s family farm in December and have already been frozen and shipped off to be sold.

“For the most part everything has been surprisingly smooth. We got our business up and running much sooner than anticipated, but what surprised us what the amount of hands on work needed. We were not prepared for that,” remembers Jouko Siikonen.

Onto shop shelves and restaurant plates

After the re-imagined understanding of the law, insect products have quickly found their way into shop shelves and on restaurant menus.

“It was suprising how quickly a variety of insect products have entered the market. There is already a big selection for sale in stores too,” observes Keski-Saari of Evira.

For insect entrepreneurs the popularity of insect-based foods is of course great news. The Siikonen family's order books are full for the next year, but the long-term profitability of cricket farming remains uncertain based on a few months experience.

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Kotisirkkaa salaatissa ja kulhossa.
Crickets can already be found in restaurant dishes. These bites can be found at the Espoo restaurant Fat Lizard. Image: Pekka Pantsu / Yle

“As of yet there are no facts, but the expectations are that the profits of cricket farming are far bigger and more positive than those of the pig industry,” says farmer Kirsi Siikonen.

“At the moment the idea is that our main business is still the production of grain. This [cricket production] is a good help financially. In the future it might take off and become a big thing, we might even make our own company,” muses Jouko Siikonen.

In the world using insects as a food product is not a new phenomenon as insect food stuffs have been around for a long time.

“Within the EU insects can be sold as food products by Finland, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Denmark and Great Britain. Outside of the EU they insects as food are sold in at least the United States, Canada and in many Asian countries,” notes Keski-Saari.

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