Days after a group of Montreal students took home one of the world's premier awards for social innovation -- from the hands of former U.S. president Bill Clinton, no less -- Jakub Dzamba hears nothing but crickets.
The 31-year-old engineering student is surrounded by the chirping critters.
It's a labour of love for Dzamba, who has won academic acclaim for his 'cricket reactors' -- essentially breeding the insects in micro-farms, and ultimately grinding them up into flour to feed people.
But when crickets stole the show at this year's Hult Prize, Dzamba was left with a decidedly bad taste in his mouth.
"It was frustrating to see the way it happened," Dzamba told the Huffington Post.
He feels his fellow students at McGill University stole his million-dollar baby -- a charge they vehemently deny.
"McGill University, which values academic integrity and owns the patent, states unequivocally that our business has zero to do with Jakub," team member Jesse Pearlstein fired back.
Considered the world's largest student competition to solve social challenges, the Hult Prize involves some 10,000 students from more than 150 countries. And it comes with a $1-million bounty for students to use as seed capital.
"The mandate of the competition," Dzamba notes, "is to instill business ethics among college and university students in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis."
This year, a five-member team from McGill was handed the award in New York City by the 42nd president of the United States.
"No one would believe we gave an international award [to a team] who told us to eat more crickets," Clinton noted. "But the truth is they are a ready source of protein ... You're laughing, but this is going to be an amazing thing."
No one has to tell Jakub Dzamba that. He's been chirping about the power of crickets since his first year in the University of Toronto's architecture program.
It was 2009 and the class assignment was to come up with a model for growing a lot of food in a very small space.
"No one could really figure it out. Some people did a vineyard and a chicken farm and stuff like that," he recalled. "But none of them could grow very much food."
"I came up with the wacky idea of using city waste water to farm algae and feeding that algae to insects and grinding insects up into flour and feeding that to people. We did some calculations and it turns out you can feed many, many times more people with that farming method than you could farming any other type of mammal or livestock."
Story continues below slideshow
Ed Brook of Oregon State University, who studies ancient ice cores, made drinking cups from the 40,000-year-old ice.
Nalini Nadkarni of the University of Utah ate grubs and fruit bats during her work as a field assistant in Papua New Guinea.
Joe Sapp, an ecology graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, eats a honeypot ant. "They taste like candy," he said.
This photo shows a museum worker inspecting a replica of a woolly mammoth. Tales suggest paleontologist Dale Guthrie and colleagues excavated a 36,000-year-old steppe bison carcass, and stewed and ate extra neck tissue while prepping the bison for display.
Marine biologist Peter Girguis, a professor at Harvard University, has eaten deep-sea tubeworms. Worms are pictured here from the hydrothermal vents at the East Pacific Rise.
In class, Dzamba's idea went down like a lead balloon. "I think I got the worst grade possible."
But a year later, he was presenting his cricket farming ideas at a conference in Bangladesh.
And by 2012, his idea had earned third prize in McGill's University's Dobson Cup.
It was at McGill, where Dzamba had moved to pursue a PhD in architecture, that Dzamba says he was approached by the student team aiming to win this year's Hult Prize.
"They asked if I could help them win the semi-final round of the Hult Prize," he recounted. "I started working with them. They seemed to really like the stuff I had. At first it was only an exchange of ideas. Then they liked everything I had so much they basically said if I help them win the semi-finals, they'll find a way to include me on the team -- either add me as a teammate or ... find a way to make me a partner in any company they found."
That was February 2013.
Not long after that, Dzamba got a decidedly different message. His peers told him the Hult prize wouldn't allow a six-member team -- and they were no longer interested in adding him as a partner.
"That was a bit of a tough moment," Dzamba says.
For its part, the five-member team that won the prize -- Shobhita Soor, Zev Thompson, Gabriel Mott, Mohammed Ashour and Jesse Pearlstein -- told the Huffington Post they worked well within competition rules.
"We did not invent the concept of farming insects, for food or otherwise, nor did Jakub Dzamba," Jesse Pearlstein countered. "Further, the idea was not unique at all. This year, there were three teams who entered the Hult Prize with insects as a proposed solution. What made us distinct was our business model, which has nothing to do with Jakub."
But the war of the crickets had already begun.
After his rejection from the team last March, Dzamba tried negotiating to no avail. Then he tried talking to the business faculty as a third party. No luck.
Finally, he got the ear of administration. Four associate deans and a commercialization officer (the patent guy), convened to weigh the case.
They came up with a two-part remedy. Firstly, McGill would file a pending patent for the cricket farms Dzamba designed in his name alone. And secondly, the team would pay him $5,300 for the work he had already done.
Dzamba says he would have been content to sign off on that offer. But he claims the Hult team added one very difficult condition.
"I had to sign a release order and a suppression of discussion," he said.
Essentially, it was a gag order.
"That statement was so broad and so aggressively written if I had signed it, I would not even be able to speak to my own professor about my invention.
"It would have kind of defeated the purpose of the PhD."
Dzamba declined, adding the very next day the team sent an email heavy on the legal menace.
"That's where things are at the moment," he said. "I haven't heard from them."
So that leaves him with crickets. But for Jakub Dzamba that may not be a bad thing at all.
"I have my own plans. I'm developing my own cricket farming units in my apartment," adding that he's getting "quite a bit of interest" from abroad.
"They're more modest plans than starting off with a million bucks. But I still have plans to bring these to market."
Also on HuffPost:
Parasite In Whole Fish
In April 2013, a supermarket shopper discovered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/tongue-eating-louse-supermarket-fish_n_3111599.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">tongue-eating louse</a> inside a whole fish.
Snake In Bread
In April 2013, a Redditor discovered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/snake-bread_n_3084798.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">snake baked in bread</a>.
Mold In Minute Maid
In March 2103, a Redditor discovered <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/mold-minute-maid-orange_n_2879519.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">gross mold</a> in a Minute Maid can.
'Wrinkled Brain' In KFC Chicken
In January 2013, a student discovered a f<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/ibrahim-langoo-brain-kidney-kfc_n_2425917.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">ried kidney that looked like a brain</a> in KFC chicken.
Black Widow Spider In Whole Foods Grapes
A Connecticut woman, Nora Weiss, received a shock in December when she found a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/nora-weiss-black-widow-spider-grapes_n_2245459.html" target="_hplink">live black widow spider tucked amongst the organic grapes she'd recently purchased from Whole Foods</a>. A representative for the grocery chain stressed that the "safety of our shoppers is incredibly important." Weiss received a full refund.
Nose Ring In McDonald's Breakfast Burrito
In November, Frances Rosario found a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/30/frances-rosario-atlanta-mom-nose-ring-mcdonalds-burrito-video_n_2218190.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">nose ring in her daughter's breakfast burrito at an Atlanta area McDonald's</a>. Rosario said she was rudely rebuffed by the McDonald's staff and received no response from McDonald's corporate office.
Plastic Fragments In Chicken Enchiladas
In November, nearly <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/enchilada-recall_n_2056970.html" target="_hplink">11,400 pounds of frozen chicken enchiladas were recalled</a> by Food Source, L.P. because they might have contained plastic fragments. The products, 57-oz. boxes of "Bremer Party Size White Meat Chicken Enchiladas," were shipped to stores in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Live Frog In Walmart Greens
Before Dwanita Pitman of Minneola, Fla. could open her bag of Marketside greens that she purchased at a Walmart on Thursday, Oct. 18, she noticed a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/frog-in-salad-bag-walmart_n_2010923.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">live frog camped out inside</a>.
Dead Frog In Spinach Greens
Londoner Sarah Moss was disturbed to find a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/dead-frog-spinach-salad_n_1896701.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">dead frog in her bag of spinach greens</a> that she'd purchased from grocery chain Tesco. Tesco at first refused to compensate Moss, but ended up forking over a £10 gift voucher.
Moth Larvae In Clif Bar
Redditor DonutPlains got a shock when he unwrapped a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/clif-bar-moth-larvae_n_1935436.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">Clif Bar to find it covered with moth larvae</a>. A company representative refuted the notion that the bugs got into the packaging at the factory, suggesting instead that they entered in transit or in the poster's pantry. Still, the Clif Bars rep offered to send along some replacement bars.
Finger In Arby's Sandwich
A Michigan teenager found a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/finger-arbys-sandwich_n_1524129.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">human finger in his Arby's sandwich</a> in May of this year. It belonged to a worker who sliced the appendage at the restaurant's meat slicer.
Raw Chicken Sandwich At KFC
An image posted to Reddit in September showed what could be the worst KFC ever: an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/kfc-raw-chicken-sandwich-photo_n_1890067.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">raw chicken sandwich</a>. Worse yet, a bite was missing. The incident allegedly took place in Ontario, Canada.
Syringe In Campbell's Soup
Caveat: this one was definitely fake. A man was caught trying to extort money from Campbell's by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/daniel-ferris-campells-syringe_n_2005140.html?utm_hp_ref=mealbreakers" target="_hplink">planting a syringe in his can of soup</a> in Australia in October 2012.
Worms In KFC Sandwich
A family found <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/worms-in-kfc-fried-chicked_n_1949704.html?1351102868" target="_hplink">live worms in a KFC fried chicken sandwich</a> at an outpost outside Kerala, in southern India, in early October 2012 -- prompting a huge investigations of the KFCs throughout the region.
Plastic Shards In McDonald's Cookie
An Oklahoma woman cut her tongue on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/mcdonalds-cookie_n_1928954.html" target="_hplink">sharp shards of plastic she found in a McDonald's cookie</a> in September 2012.
KFC Workers Served Expired Chicken
In September, workers at a Conroe, Texas KFC location <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/kfc-spoiled-chicken-conroe-texas_n_1876870.html" target="_hplink">allegedly served spoiled chicken that was 16 days old</a> -- six days later than the KFC policy allows.
Rusty Razor Blade Found In Jolly Ranchers Bag
California mother Amy Hu was horrified to find an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/31/razor-blade-jolly-ranchers_n_1723814.html" target="_hplink">old, rusty razor blade in a bag of Jolly Ranchers</a>.
Lizard Found Baked Into Bread
In July, 10-year-old William Evans from Hawkchurch, England, found what he claims was a lizard baked into a loaf of bread.
Spider In Chef Boyardee Ravioli
In June of 2012, Florida resident Victoria Harrah claims she got quite a shock recently when a piece of beef ravioli from a can of Chef Boyardee contained an unwelcome additive: <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/spider-in-chef-boyardee-ravioli-can_n_1597369.html" target="_hplink">a large spider</a>.
Used Band-Aid In Chinese Food
In June of 2012, a New York man found this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/used-band-aid-chinese-food_n_1586719.html" target="_hplink">used Band-Aid</a> in his delivery order from a local Chinese restaurant.
Cockroach In McD Hash Brown
In May 2012, Reddit user LinkBoyJT posted an image Wednesday that might make your skin crawl. After ordering a McDonald's hash brown and eating most of it, he says he was startled to find what he claims was a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/roach-mcdonalds-hash-browns_n_1520862.html" target="_hplink">deep-fried insect stuck to the bottom half</a>.
Chewed Up Pen Found In Ground Beef
In April 2012, a worker discovered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/chewed-up-pen-ground-beef_n_1467777.html" target="_hplink">pen in a meat grinder</a> after some of the meat was likely already for sale.
Woman Finds Razor Blade In McDonald's Breakfast
In April 2012, an Illinois woman ordered eggs from McDonald's and apparently discovered a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/18/razor-blade-mcdonalds-breakfast_n_1435658.html?1335887776" target="_hplink">razor blade beneath them</a>. The managers explained to police that razors are used to "clean tight corners"... whatever that means.
Maggot In Wendy's Fries Alleged
In March 2012, a woman claimed she found a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/29/maggot-in-wendys-fries_n_1388291.html" target="_hplink">live maggot</a> in her fries. According to Wendy's, the local health department determined that a Noctuid Moth larva, found only in outdoor habitats, was provided to them by the woman as the "maggot." The health department found no evidence of any health violations in follow-up inspections of the Wendy's facility after the woman's claim. <em>Photo from <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/theimpulsivebuy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: theimpulsivebuy</a></em>
McFeather In McNugget
In March 2012, a woman claims she found a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/20/mcnugget-has-feather_n_1367461.html?ref=food&ir=Food" target="_hplink">McFeather in her McNugget.</a>
Animal Toe In Spinach Artichoke Dip
Andrew Brodsky, 35, found an unidentified animal toe</a> in his container of Sabra Spinach & Artichoke dip.
Coil In Fried Chicken
In January 2012, fifty-year-old bus driver Lajzer Grynsztajn claims he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/man-swallows-2-inch-coil_n_1242472.html?1330621038" target="_hplink">nearly choked to death</a> on such a coil after ordering two chicken breasts and fries from JFK Fried Chicken in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. <em>Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrea_nguyen/6242324853/sizes/z/in/photostream/" target="_hplink">Flickr user: Andrea_Nguyen</a></em>
Mouse In Big Mac Buns
In January 2011, a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/mouse-in-big-mac_n_1210372.html?" target="_hplink">mouse got trapped in a bag of Big Mac buns</a> at a Philadelphia McDonald's.
Whopper Spit Case
A deputy sheriff alleges that someone spit in his Whopper...and the case has made it to the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/11/whopper-spit-case-edward-bylsma_n_1200044.html" target="_hplink">Supreme Court</a> as of January 2012.
Semen In Yogurt
A grocery store worker <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/semen-tainted-yogurt-anthony-garcia_n_998868.html" target="_hplink">pleaded guilty to handing out a semen-tainted yogurt sample</a> at an Albuquerque market.
Fingertip In Applebee's Salad
Louisiana woman Mary Deal Chambers-Johnson sued Applebee's for damages after she claimed a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/08/fingertip-applebees-salad_n_954530.html" target="_hplink">fingertip in her lunch salad</a> gave her post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fly In Yogurt
A Chinese woman found a fly in her yogurt in July 2011. When she asked for compensation, the manufacturer asked her <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/11/mealbreakers-yogurt-fly-autopsy_n_924617.html" target="_hplink">to prove that the fly had died before she opened the container -- by getting the insect autopsied</a>. (Flies can not be autopsied.)
Bloody Bandaid In Pizza Hut Pizza
An upstate New York man found <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/mealbreakers-bandaid-pizza-hut_n_915489.html#s319946&title=Disemboweled_Mouse_In" target="_hplink">a bloody bandaid in baked into the crust of his Pizza Hut pizza</a> in June of 2011. He sued after the company failed to address his concerns.
Disemboweled Mouse In Packaged Salad
A couple found <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/mealbreakers-mouse-salad-blt-blood_n_887882.html" target="_hplink">a disembowled mouse in their Dole packaged salad mix</a> in June 2011. They'd already started eating the salad by the time they found the mealbreaker; they promptly vomited.
Human Blood On BLT & Fries
Cancer survivor Susan Mosher was outraged after she found <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/mealbreakers-bloodied-blt_n_888559.html" target="_hplink">human blood on her BLT and fries</a> at a Cracker Barrel in Kingwood, TX, in late June of 2011.
Caterpillar In Weight Watchers Cake
A dieting woman found a <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2008450/Dieter-finds-live-caterpillar-Weight-Watchers-snack.html?ITO=1490" target="_hplink">live caterpillar crawling on a Weight Watchers-brand slice of packaged cake</a> in June 2011. She called it gross enough to put her off of cake forever.
Razor Blade in Wal-Mart Ice Cream
An East Texas woman found <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeBUII0VFKk" target="_hplink">a razor blade in a carton of Walmart ice cream</a> in February 2011. Considering the danger, she was surprisingly understanding. She told CBS, "I think it's just one of those random accidents that happen. When you make that much of a product and that many products, you're bound to have a machine break."
Green Pill In Trail Mix
A Salt Lake City teen was hospitalized after biting into <a href="http://www.abc4.com/content/news/taking_action/story/Salt-Lake-teen-finds-mysterious-capsule-inside/zQSjtTghzEW7b8yHORpxBQ.cspx" target="_hplink">a mysterious green pill in a bag of trail mix</a> she'd bought at Whole Foods in January 2011. The teen felt numbness and pain throughout her throat. Whole Foods recalled the product from stores around Utah.
Condom In French Onion Soup
A California man claimed to find <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,534460,00.html" target="_hplink">a condom in his French onion soup</a> at a Claim Jumper restaurant, also in July 2009. The restaurant's PR firm said that they found no evidence of wrongdoing after conducting an investigation of the matter.
Used Tampon In Steak
In July 2009, a German tourist claimed to find <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local&id=6914735" target="_hplink">a used tampon in his steak</a> at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
Dead Mouse In Bread
In 2009, a man from Bath, UK found <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/30/dead-mouse-found-in-bread-photo_n_745069.html" target="_hplink">a dead mouse in a loaf of bread</a>.
Paperclips In Muffins
At the height of the Beijing Olympics, reporters pounced on the Chinese food industry after <a href="http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/muffins-spur-beijing-scare/story-e6freoof-1111116061193" target="_hplink">athletes found paperclips in muffins served them at an official function</a>. The story's most surprising revelation may just be that Olympic athletes eat muffins.
Live Bullet In Hot Dog
No one said hot dogs promote longevity, but it's not like eating a frankfurter is as dangerous as someone sticking a gun in your face--unless your name is Olivia Chaines and you're eating it Costco. The then-31-year-old had <a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/3274884/detail.html" target="_hplink">swallowed a piece of a Hebrew National brand hotdog</a> in the shopping aisle of a Costco in May 2004 before she realized that it contained a piece of metal. X-rays revealed that the hot dog had contained a live bullet.
Semen In Spicy Tuna Sushi Sauce
A New York woman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/05/mealbreakers-semen-sushi_n_919778.html#s323488&title=Bloody_Bandaid_In" target="_hplink">sued a sushi bar after she tasted semen in the sauce atop her spicy tuna</a> in June 2008; she says she still has samples frozen in her refrigerator.
Rodent Tooth In Planter's Peanuts
In 2006, a 52-year-old man from Illinois sued Kraft Foods for $55,000 to compensate for the physical and emotional distress he suffered after allegedly biting into <a href="http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12843428/" target="_hplink">a "non-human animal tooth" in a container of Planter's Peanuts</a>.
Gold Tooth In Mars Bar
Finding <a href="http://content.usatoday.com/communities/popcandy/post/2010/03/wonka-candy-launches-a-real-life-golden-ticket-contest/1" target="_hplink">a golden ticket in your candy bar</a> is great. But a gold tooth? Not so much. That's what happened to <a href="http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/1694237.print/" target="_hplink">a 62-year-old British man in September of 2007</a>. He contacted Mars to try and receive compensation, but got no substantive response.
Human Skin In Chicken Sandwich
Kitchen accidents happen. Knives are sharp; sometimes a cook will slice off a piece of skin the course of an evening. It's understandable. Not understandable? Failing to clean up the product of an accident. That, apparently, is what happened at an Ohio Arby's in June 2007, when a man found <a href="http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7634321/" target="_hplink">a piece of human skin sitting on the lettuce in his chicken sandwich</a>. The man sued, refusing a settlement that Arby's initially offered him.
Mouse In Popeye's Fried Chicken
A Baltimore man was eating <a href="http://www.wbaltv.com/r/2512486/detail.html" target="_hplink">fried chicken from Popeye's in September of 2003</a> when he discovered that the fast food store had inadvertently fried a mouse along with the chicken parts.
Syringe In Burger King Burger
In June of 2001, 22-year-old Angelina Cruz bit into a burger from Burger King--and <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2001/07/28/2001-07-28_fast-food_customer__i_bit_ne.html" target="_hplink">got pricked in the tongue by a syringe</a>. Citing HIV fears, she sued the chain for $9 million.