March 29, 2023

Enterprise JM

Do the Business

Exotic pet food business enterprise embraces science and tech

MARION, Ill. — Todd Goodman jokingly refers to himself as a “bug rancher.” But he’s serious about his operate.

“I’m a farmer,” he reported though walking about the empire he has made.

The proprietor of Timberline Stay Pet Meals has transformed a neighborhood bait business into the nation’s largest producer of unique animal feed. And nevertheless the “livestock” he raises weigh considerably less than a gram apiece, he places as substantially care into his product as a cattle rancher or pig farmer.

The smaller loved ones enterprise that equipped area bait stores with worms, crickets and minnows a handful of a long time in the past has turn into a big nationwide wholesaler. Timberline materials all Petco retailers and 50 % of the nation’s PetSmart retailers with unique animal feed. In addition, he sells insects to numerous zoos, which include the St. Louis Zoo, the San Diego Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo.

Though the business started off by his father, Ray Goodman, was prosperous, it was in no way going to be anything at all far more than a neighborhood undertaking with a handful of staff members. Timberline Fisheries continues to be its company title, but the firm has virtually nothing at all to do with fishing these days.

Todd Goodman carried with him a eyesight that would transport Timberline into a courageous new entire world.

“I grew up in this business,” he mentioned. “I counted worms when I was 8 many years previous. When I arrived out of school in 1988, I realized that, skillfully, I was heading to be challenged.”

He took a excellent glimpse at the business and recognized its limitations. The bait business is seasonal, for one particular detail. And there is minor home for progress. His eyes opened when he attended an unique pet food exhibit.

“I reported, holy cow! There is a total new planet out there. No year, no regionality,” he reported.

The son persuaded the father to go in a diverse way. As a substitute of advertising bait, they would promote feed.

“Virtually anything I carried on my truck for bait also interprets into the exotic animal business as food stuff,” Goodman stated. “We had to come across a way to make our 8 to 10 workers active.”

He did, growing the workforce to about 160 right now, doing the job at a campus consisting of dozens of buildings fitted with condition-of-the-artwork equipment.

When Todd Goodman took in excess of, Timberline’s small business was 1% pet meals and 99% bait. That is reversed nowadays.

He credits his ambition and ideal timing for the company’s achievement. He was ready to function with clients in the unique animal enterprise by adapting to their wants, some thing many of those in the market were not inclined to do.

“It’s the way we specific pet shops,” he stated. “We advised them we’re new. How do you want them? What do you want the box to look like? I feel that resonated with a large amount of pet shops.”

Existence were being switching, like pet possession.

“We obtained into it at the suitable time, just when the specialty section in the pet business was increasing,” he mentioned. “We met what was likely on with people today. They had been shifting all around more, perhaps dwelling in a scaled-down put. You can have a tank with a lizard in it and go away for a weekend and it is going to be great.”

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Pop society was even a variable.

“Jurassic Park experienced just appear out, which oddly made individuals want to have a little dinosaur in their hand,” Goodman mentioned.

Timberline ships billions of crickets, flies and worms each year. Every 7 days about 50 million go out the doorways of the company’s major campus, just south of Marion, in Williamson County, Illinois.

The firm ships thousands of containers of dwell pet food stuff each individual week.

The fate of his are living solution hasn’t changed as a result of the decades: They are all eaten. But the emphasis is distinctive nowadays. As a substitute of fishermen hoping to hook some crappie, the individuals are entrepreneurs of reptiles and birds.

“Now we’re conversing to our buyers about diet,” he explained.

Timberline labored with scientists to develop optimal feed formulations for its bugs. It took 10 a long time to come up with the good mix.

“We’re using just about every species we grew and mimicking a diet program they would forage on in the wild due to the fact they forage on unique vegetation,” Goodman stated. “Just like farmers want to fatten up cows and pigs, our market does the exact same. But it was low-priced food stuff. Now we have included back all of that nutrition that they naturally get in their food plan.”

About 22 a long time ago Timberline approached Purina for support in engineering a diet program for its bugs that will complete the company’s priorities. The proprietary feed — Timberline goes via 50 tons a week — consists of floor grain that is wetted with vitamins this kind of as fatty acids and carotene, then dried all over again. It emerges fundamentally as a corn or soybean-centered powder. Wheat midds are also utilised for bedding for insects throughout transportation.

“It took 10 several years to arrive up with it,” Goodman mentioned of the feed, made in its Missouri plant.

Timberline has extra solutions to its line. Hornworms, flightless fruit flies and calciworms are now provided. But crickets keep on being the most important seller. The business ships the bugs in 10 sizes, the smallest equipped to fit on a pinhead.

“Chameleons are reside born. They want quite small food,” Goodman claimed. “The sizing of the foods, if it is not a delicate worm, cannot be larger sized than the length in between the corners of the mouth. When I ship these nowadays, they’ll be that sizing in a several times. So we have to hurry and get them to our clients.”

Reptiles and amphibians are the main consumers. But the organization also supplies some birds, tropical fish and even primates. Crickets also find their way into massive ape enclosures at zoos, not as food stuff but as workout gear.

“They’ll dump a thousand crickets in there,” Goodman said. “That will get them shifting. They chase them. They’ll even try to eat some.”

In some societies bugs are eaten by human beings, and some environmental activists advocate an raise in the intake of substantial-protein insects. But Goodman is not on board.

“I am not heading to make this a foodstuff-grade insect farm for four factors: U-S-D-A,” he explained. “We’re controlled now, but with them coming in right here seeking to white-glove us, which is a distinctive story. Plus, I’m just not going to consume bugs.”

In any case, he does not believe insect generation is more sustainable than livestock.

“Take it from a cricket farmer — it is not,” he stated.