Alumni / Winter 2018

Alumna builds a business around edible insects

Wendy Lu McGill (MA ’12) is CEO and founder of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm. Photo: Sara Hertwig Photography

Insects — whether crickets, locusts or ants — can be quite the pests. But for Wendy Lu McGill (MA ’12), they present an opportunity to cater to adventurous eaters looking to shake up their palates with an unusual but nutritional delicacy.

McGill is CEO and founder of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm. The Denver-based company raises crickets, mealworms and wax worms in a solar-heated shipping container. It sells its products to restaurants and food manufacturers and also sells edible insect products — including cricket powder — from around the world. McGill runs the company, which she founded in 2015, with her business partner, Kyle Conrad.

So how did McGill, who studied international and intercultural communication at DU, get involved in the edible insect industry? It was the result of her passion for nutrition and climate-smart agriculture.

“While I was working in international development, I began to work in rural development and grew increasingly interested in agriculture for development and the role it can play in livelihoods, as well as food and nutrition security,” says McGill. She spent more than a decade working with five different U.N. agencies as a communications and development consultant.

“When I learned about insect farming,” she says, “I became deeply passionate about how it has the potential to improve food and nutrition security with a climate-smart agriculture practice.”

The company has a partnership with the Butterfly Pavilion to create a line of insect snacks to sell in its museum shop; it also works with a number of local chefs. National expansion is taking place at restaurants in three other states, and the company recently helped Chico State University in California add crickets to its residential dining menus.

McGill is passionate about her company and proud of the progress she has made. To those looking to start their own business, McGill says be prepared and surround yourself with the right people.

“I’m as passionate as I was the day I started this company, but the road is long,” McGill says. “If you think you want to start a business, prepare yourself for a marathon, surround yourself with smart, respectfully critical and highly engaged supporters, and believe in the gut feelings that are driving you to entrepreneurship.”


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