Zac’s combining the court with career
As the son of farmers, a solid work ethic was instilled in Zac Schubert early in life. It has served him well in his progression to high performance sport and a place in the upper echelon of Australian beach volleyball.
It is also paying dividends as he combines his sporting career with a unique, burgeoning business which he will look to further expand in the coming years.
Having worked in kitchens at the start of his career, Schubert quickly learned he didn’t want to be a dishy for the rest of his life and as he travelled more overseas his eyes started to open to opportunities he could pursue at home.
“As you start to tour you get exposed to different cultures and you get exposed to what the rest of the world do and that’s when I came across insects,” he said.
Studying a Bachelor of Nutrition Studies at UniSA, his academic interests were piqued with what he was seeing while playing around the globe.
“Right place, right time,” says Schubert. “Nutrition subjects at the time opened my eyes up to the fact that we’re not living that sustainably and there’s a big call for us to do more. At the start it wasn’t about getting myself a job; it was about how can I do a bit of farming when I’m back in Adelaide living in a small house.
“So I thought I’d see if I could grow my own insects and turn them into my own food.”
The result is ‘Schubugs’, the largest cricket farm in South Australia. What started as growing crickets in a modest garage setup has transformed into shipping containers full of the insects on the family farm 10km outside of Loxton, SA.
Unable to remain still after retiring from dry land farming, father Tim joined Zac in the venture and now keeps operations running while Zac continues his career on the Beach Pro Tour.
Speaking ahead of National Careers Week which starts on Monday, Schubert acknowledges that while the demands of an elite sporting career and studying leave time for little else, he also saw the benefit of filling more of his time with something which could have long-lasting benefits and set himself up for life after volleyball.
“I just wanted to take on more and see what I could do and the business has really exploded in the last two years,” said Schubert. “We’re not necessarily cruising – we still need to work hard, but it’s a lot easier than traditional farming.
“At the moment we’re 90% reptile market – we wouldn’t have a business without the reptile market. The human consumption is taking a bit of a slow start – we’ve got to get more people on board with it.
“For me, I don’t care if people eat a whole cricket or if it’s in a powdered form – what I’m focused on is if there’s people who aren’t getting enough protein in their diet, how can we make it cheaper to get it in their system. That’s where protein powders and protein bars come into it.
“I think if most people looked into their whey protein, where it comes from and how it’s processed, they’d be pretty disgusted by it in terms of the actual damage it does to the environment.
“With insects, we can do it really cheap. In terms of getting bigger and scaling it up we just need a lot more funding and maybe make it more robotic as well.”
Having returned from the opening events of the 2023 Beach Pro Tour in Central and South America, Schubert is using the time at home to set up a new facility ahead of nine more weeks away in Europe mid-year.
With ambitions to grow and keep the business rolling when he eventually has a family of his own, Schubert says he is conscious of ensuring he continues to do things ‘right’.
“We do want to diversify into other bugs, but let’s get one thing right,” he said. “We haven’t nailed every single aspect of crickets yet so we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.
“I’ve learned from volleyball that if you spread yourself too thin then the overall performance can drop. Just like sport – I’ve had success at the top, and to maintain that success at the top is hard.”
In addition to the business, Schubert is giving back to the community by getting involved in GameAware, a program launched by Andrew Kinch who he met years ago through beach volleyball. Along with Tokyo Olympian Damien Schumann, Schubert is one of a number of mentors who guide youths to bridge the gap between gamers, parents and professionals through education and intelligent gaming strategies.
As a keen gamer himself, Schubert knows the battles some parents are experience with their children having an unhealthy balance in their lives.
“It’s absurd how much they’re playing. Parents are lost, don’t know what to do,” he said. “Some parents just aren’t involved anymore in their kids’ lives.
“Kids need to try stuff, get out there, have a crack. Invest in yourself, take risks and see yourself through to the other side. Getting the balance right is tough, but hopefully we can help with that.”