Wriggle room: Beta Hatch’s insect farm grows millions of mealworms

Virginia Emery, scientist and self-proclaimed insect entrepreneur, is rearing masses of mealworms that her company, Beta Hatch, now sells as feed for livestock and fish. It also produces fertilizer from their droppings. Emery says there’s “a wave of insect industry” out there.

The Seattle area’s only commercial insect farm is home to tens of millions of wriggling creatures at various stages of development. Walls of heavy plastic sheeting and stacked trays help keep organized the insects that call it home, but with an average size at just over an inch per occupant, there’s plenty of room to spare.

Virginia Emery, a Ph.D. and self-proclaimed insect entrepreneur, spends her days rearing these teeming masses of mealworms. Her company, Beta Hatch, ultimately hopes to convince people to think of insects as an undeveloped protein source, although for now the business is selling them as feed for livestock and fish.

But Beta Hatch does have a product for the home consumer, too: It is packaging their poop, or frass, for fertilizer. PCC Natural Markets sells 2.5-ounce bags for $3.29 and 20-ounce ones for $11.69.

To date the startup has raised $1.2 million from local investors and grant funding.

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Emery, whose doctorate in entomology is from the University of California, Berkeley, has a passion for business and started the company in 2015.

And she’s not alone.

“Right now. there’s a wave of insect industry,” Emery said.

She believes she’s the only one farming insects in the state so far, but there are others in the U.S. and around the world.

Agriprotein, a South African farming company that sells Magmeal (maggots) for livestock consumption, attracted the eye of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, as well as his financial backing.

Tiny Farms in California raises crickets for human consumption. Crickets are popular (in some circles) for grinding up into flour….

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