Wairarapa cricket farmer teams up with bakery to make healthy creepy-crawly snack

A Wairarapa farmer and a local bakery think they've cooked up a new way to improve our gut health.

They want us to start eating crickets - or at least products made from them.

Crickets may be creepy and crawly, but farmer John Hart loves them so much he has two million of them stashed away in a shipping container.

"I get a few raised eyebrows," says Hart.

He started farming crickets a little over a year ago, after he was approached by a baker wanting to source cricket flour locally. 

Yes, that's flour made from insects - and Hart reckons it might just be the food of the future.

"As soon as I started, I just fell in love with the idea. And the more I've done it, the more I'm excited about what we're doing."

Crickets are touted as the world's most sustainable livestock: they can be farmed in a small space, they don't need much food, and they can be harvested in just six weeks.

They're known for being protein-rich, but Hart thinks there are other benefits - he's exploring whether eating them can improve gut health.

"We didn't set out to be the first to do this, it just became part of the project," he says. "We had questions we wanted to answer, so we followed the science and pulled at the threads and looked at the research."

This research comes off the back of a study in the United States, which found crickets may have positive impacts on digestion.

This is thanks to the hard exoskeleton that makes it through to the large intestine and promotes the growth of good gut microbes. 

But New Zealanders may take some convincing before they chomp down on these creatures.

New research shows about 67 percent of New Zealanders would eat crickets, but only if they're ground down into a powder and placed into another product. 

It seems eating a whole cricket might be a step too far for most Kiwis.

But this is where third-generation Masterton bakery Breadcraft comes in. 

Breadcraft was on the hunt for innovative products for its new brand. 

The bakery's ideas man Chris Petersen says crickets tick all the boxes: high in fibre and protein - and he swears they taste like hazelnuts.

In wrap form, they're also easier to stomach.

"We were looking for nutritious and sustainable products, but most important they still had to be delicious," says Petersen. "So I jumped on the old Google and started Googling away, and cricket flour came along."

This is just the beginning for the Masterton team - with more research on the cards, the bakery is planning to cook up more ways to get us eating crickets.