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Cockroaches a booming business

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Vlastimil Švingr sells one cockroach for CZK 4. His business, which is based in the family house of his parents, has a turnover of CZK 12 million a year.

Fifteen years ago, Vlastimil Švingr from the village of Martiněves under Říp was flirting with the idea to found a farm with cockroaches and crickets. Today, he breeds thousands of beetles in a house where also his parents live. And the insects bring in a lot of money to him. His firm is one of three of its kind in the country and it has a turnover of CZK 12 million a year.

A house that chirps
When one comes to the house where Vlastimil Švingr breeds the insect, they are welcomed by intensive chatter. On the ground floor there are boxes full of mealworms that are waiting to be packed and taken away. The entrepreneur sells around 300 kilos of mealworms a week.

However, he does not breed them himself, they are only one of the items of his stock. “Some people eat them roasted, but I haven’t tasted them. However, the truth is, if you feed apples to the worms, they smell quite nice after apples then,” he said when passing the boxes swarming with the mealworms.

The heart of his company is chirping on the first floor of the small house. He has dozens of open boxes and terrariums with crickets, cockroaches and locusts there. Inside the boxes there is hay and egg cartons. Beetles are illuminated by bulbs.

He also breeds exotic locusts that are able to graze thousands of hectares of land if there are too many of them. “In our conditions, they would not be fortunately able to survive,” he says while holding a locust on his palm.

However, sometimes a beetle escapes. His parents already got used to the fact that from time to time a beetle pays a visit to their flat on the ground floor. The biggest cockroaches can be around three centimetres long. And if they get out of the house, they usually become food for birds.

Idea from Switzerland
All began in 1994. At that time, Vlastimil Švingr’s friend was telling him about an insect farm that he saw in Switzerland. Two years later the entrepreneur started slowly earning money on insects.

He started with a few boxes of beetles that he bought in pet shop. “The beginnings were difficult. I didn’t know exactly how to breed insects, I did not even have clients,” he said.

As soon as his business finally started running, he suffered a blow. After four years of entrepreneurship all his beetles died and he was left with empty boxes. He had therefore the Prague Institute of Chemical Technology make an analysis for him, so that he would not make the same mistake again. “We have to be very careful about bacteria and viruses. They can even get to the feed,” he said. The beetles eat special granules with mixture of beef, herbs and grass.

The entrepreneur had to reconstruct the attic of the house because of his business. For example, he had to harden the floor. He maintains a constant temperature of 30 degrees Celsius there. There is a big white bathtub standing in the corner of the room, where he cleans up and sorts the beetles before sending them to pet shops.

Vlastimil Švingr and his brother load boxes with beetles daily on the car and deliver them to exhibitions and pet shops all over the country. He drives hundreds of kilometres. Besides beetles of his own production they also trade in “goods” that they get from someone else. Like the mealworms. “It doesn’t look like it. But people have many animals at home, like chameleons, frilled lizards, and geckos, which eat insects. Sometimes we do not even manage to supply the shops,” he said. A difference between a good and bad breed can be told according to how long the insects can survive. “When people find out that a lot of beetles have died, they can only throw them away. As soon as they calculate that they have to buy more beetles, they realize that they have to look for a quality producer,” Švingr said.

However, not only pet shops are among his clients. “Some time ago the army ordered five litres of crickets, locusts and mealworms. They were organizing a survival camp and soldiers had to learn what to eat when there is no pork at hand,” Vlastimil Švingr said.

He also prompted his clients to taste the insects when he placed a link to an article on entomophagy or eating insects. There is also a recipe on crickets in the Papua style in the text.

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