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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Dec. 6, 2023

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Cashmere bug farm expands to Wenatchee for more production, collaboration


WENATCHEE — North Central Washington bug farm, Beta Hatch, is spreading its wings and opening a second mealworm production facility in Wenatchee with the help of a $400,000 state grant.

Beta Hatch currently operates out of its 40,000-square-foot Cashmere facility, producing worms and beetle eggs to sell on the market as animal feed and fertilizer. The site’s ribbon cutting was in June 2022, with Gov. Jay Inslee attending.

The new location is about a 10-minute drive from the current Titchenal Road site, said Virginia Emery, Beta Hatch CEO and founder. She declined to give the new site’s address.

“One of the great things is that we can be moving material and people from one site to the other as needed to really support a smoother scale up of the new operation,” Emery said. “We’ve been growing out of our flagship in Cashmere for the last year and a half. We are needing some new space to increase our capacity.”

The new Beta Hatch facility will be a retrofitted former controlled atmosphere building with an adjacent warehouse, with the assistance of the grant funds, for the mealworm producer’s new space. According to Emery, the second Beta Hatch facility will provide space to increase production, as well as tap into the bird market, such as backyard chickens.

The new facility also allows Beta Hatch to have room to foster a collaboration with Cashmere apple slicing company, Crunch Pak. Crunch Pak did not immediately respond to The Wenatchee World’s request for comment.

“One of the things this will help us do is validate a closed loop circular economy with them (Crunch Pak), taking apple cores from their fruit slicing as one of the feed stocks for our bugs and then producing for us the insect manure as a really great soil and plant amendment that they’re putting back in their orchards,” Emery said. “It’s a really nice sustainability story, shortening all the supply chains in agriculture.”

Beta Hatch received the funding through a $2 million Washington Department of Commerce Evergreen Manufacturing Grants program. The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority will route the funding from the state program to Beta Hatch ( wenatcheeworld.com ). The program, designed to create manufacturing and research development jobs throughout the state, required an associate development organization or a local economic development partner to facilitate the grant funds.

“We’re expecting to have close to 50 positions created at this location and potentially similar size of increase at our existing location. We’ll be able to increase capacity there, as well,” Emery said. “There’ll be a sizeable number of jobs we’ll be creating.”

Construction jobs will also be a byproduct of the facility, which has an earliest completion date set for the end of 2024. The design work for the facility is underway, according to Emery.

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