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Episode 1: Reinventing the Lightbulb to Reduce Piglet Mortality Rates

FarrPro Startup Story

March 26, 2018

Iowa startup FarrPro says it has come up with a solution to a 140-year-old problem.

The first episode of Startup Stories DSM, a new podcast hosted by Mike Colwell, features FarrPro CEO Amos Petersen sharing how his company is leading innovation in the hog industry and eliminating premature deaths of piglets.

Raising Healthy Pigs

The company’s flagship product is Haven, which replaces the inefficient heat lamps in farrowing facilities—a technology that’s been around since the days of Edison. Peterson says Haven works much like an incubator for piglets during the most dangerous early days of its life. Commonly-used heat lamps heat piglets unevenly, offering little heat at the boundary and too much in the middle — sometimes as hot as 180 degrees, which is the cooking temperature of pork. His product creates a microclimate, creating a healthier environment to raise happier and healthier pigs that produce more profit and reduce mortality.

Peterson says it’s a big problem for the industry with 24% of all hogs not making it out of the weening process. With a $40 market price per hog, that’s potentially a $500-million loss. Pig farming is 3% of Iowa’s GDP, according to Peterson. Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the U.S. and the top exporter. 

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Impact

The concept for FarrPro came in 2016. Soon after, the company joined the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator in its first class and Peterson says that’s when things “definitely got accelerated.” They went from a napkin sketch to having a product that looked like the one they have now in 100 days.

With a background in economics, Peterson read 80 studies consuming everything he could to build a solution for the problem.

“People have been tripping over this problem for decades,” Peterson told Colwell in front of a studio audience. “It seems there’s an incremental process to innovation in the hog industry. Maybe it took an outsider to look at it with blue sky.”

Peterson says he came in with almost no industry connections but grew up on a small farm. He joked “he got out of farm chores” by making products from an early age.

FarrPro has pilots lined up through the summer of 2018 and aims to be in production later in the year.

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Startup Stories DSM

Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.