Directions for teachers: After students have had a chance to read “Down on the (cricket) farm,” ask your students to put themselves in the shoes of a farmer who is trying to produce crickets for human food in a sustainable and economical way. Consider reviewing the concept of a life cycle analysis, as discussed in the article with the entire class. A brief overview of the life cycle analysis concept is provided at Population Education’s PopEd Blog. Ask students to define how each life cycle analysis step could apply to agriculture, and in particular, a cricket farm.
After the short class discussion, divide your students into groups and assign each group to think about one problem that a cricket farmer might face (four possible problems are listed below). Have the groups work toward a solution by answering the questions provided. Encourage students to draw inspiration from the article but also go beyond it, applying their knowledge of ecosystem interactions, energy transfer, nutrient cycling and engineering design.
Problem 1: Your crickets are low in protein relative to insects from a neighboring farm. If you can’t find a way to boost protein content and so become more competitive, your sales will drop.
Problem 2: You’ve long fed your crickets by hand, ensuring that each population gets the right amount of food at the right time, including during the night. But a labor shortage in your area is making this approach too expensive to sustain. You need to find a more economical solution.
Problem 3: Your crickets are dying in large numbers and you suspect some type of bacteria or virus has infected your farm. You need to move quickly to identify the menace, mitigate the issue and protect your remaining crickets.
Problem 4: Cricket sales are strong and you are looking to expand your business. You’d like to bring on another insect without dramatically disrupting your current operation — but what insect should you choose?
Questions for all problems:
1. What additional information would you want to gather before you take any action?
2. How would you find that info? Would it come from existing expertise or outside sources?
3. Propose one approach you might take to solve the problem. Would this approach require multiple actions to achieve a solution, or could the problem be solved with a single action?
4. Will you test the approach before large-scale implementation? If not, why not? If so, how?
5. Name at least four steps you’ll take to implement your approach. Put them in order.
6. What might be the downsides of this approach? Can you predict any unintended consequences or ripple effects?
7. How will you evaluate the success of the implementation?
8. Can you think of an entirely different approach?