Startup Stories: Equinocol tackles Equine Feeding Methods
Resistance to innovation can be encountered in many industries. However, the livestock sector seems especially traditional. Beatriz Jiménez Adánez from Equinocol wants to change that – starting with equine nourishment. The goal of her agtech-startup is to provide fresh horse feed year-round that is just as convenient as traditional dried food, such as fodder.
Please introduce yourself briefly. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Beatriz Jiménez Adánez. I’ve dedicated my professional life to the entrepreneurship and development of companies in various sectors. I’m currently paving the way for my new company EQUINOCOL, from the agtech sector, that works in the production of nutritional supplements made from the sprouts of various cereals, legumes and oilseeds for the nourishment of horses.
Why did you choose equine nourishment and what has been your pathway into the field?
Mainly for my love of animals in general, and of horses especially. The human species has unfairly exploited horses. First stabling them, despite their love for prairies and need to live in community, and then changing their feeding because for the “business” it’s easier to transport dried and transformed food such as fodder. All of this leads to intestinal disorders that have to be treated. Helping treat these disorders is the purpose of EQUINOCOL.
With the creation of EQUINOCOL we give back to horses something that has been taken away from them: their natural alimentation in freedom, while dodging obstacles such as having them in stables. We provide them with fresh grass during the 365 days of the year, with quality assured. 1400 kg are produced per day in 40m2 (with a proven scalability that we’ll soon put to production).
What was your biggest challenge so far?
Getting prestigious schools such as the Veterinary School of the Complutense University of Madrid to research alongside EQUINOCOL, and also support and endorse our new product for the nourishment of horses using sprouts.
What was your biggest success so far?
Getting prestigious personalities in the equestrian world such as D. Asís Arango, and Claudio Castilla to trust us and feed their horses regularly and constantly with EQUINOCOL.
What is the unique appeal of the company you lead? How do you isolate yourself from competitors of the industry?
Currently we’re the only company, I would say in the world, that has the products that, physiologically, better adapt to horses. Furthermore, we’re also pioneers in the introduction to the market of the only fresh food, guaranteeing its delivery and freshness. Additionally, we’re putting together an ecosystem involving equine nourishment ( training, research, sustainability, evolution) with everyone interested in the field.
To what extent do you interact across the world, and how important are international markets for your company?
EQUINOCOL is a newly created company that is beginning to make international connections which we hope to concrete in the near future. We focus on countries that have proven themselves as leaders in this sector, such as Germany, France, England… and that have shown a special empathy for these friends of humanity and such exceptional animals as horses are.
What is the secret of your successful company?
The purpose of improving the lives of the horses and the people that love them. The vision of addressing the need of a better equine nourishment, that prevents cramps and other health issues, and finally the mission of generating an ecosystem for the general welfare of horses.
Thoughts on Equine Nourishment
How do you perceive the current labor market in the equine nourishment industry in general, and how does it modify the demand for employees in your company?
In my opinion, this subject has been somewhat disregarded, in great measure due to the fact that the livestock sector is very traditional and reluctant to any innovation, especially when it comes to equine nourishment, the only exception being for racehorses. For that, there’s the need for employees trained in this field. This is why EQUINOCOL is trying to generate an ECOSYSTEM which takes care of horses in every way, from the training of the carers, to the hosting of events that increase awareness about horse wellbeing.
At the moment we’re starting to experience growth, with an investment plan and a scale up based on market research that indicates to us that there’s a growing and disregarded need for healthy and balanced feeding. For this reason, we soon expect to increase our personnel by 30%.
How will the equine nourishment field change in the next 5, 10 and 25 years? What is different compared to the past?
It’ll change for the better. And, though the future is subject to substantial changes, technology and advances in investigation will provide a much better equine food than we currently have. In the last years we’ve seen a growing concern in this matter, specially towards a healthier and more natural food. In this sense, it may be that the fundamental change lies in a different conception towards animals in general, and to horses in particular. Hence, Equinocol’s debut in the market follows the path of sustained change with a projection to the future.
Where do you see major and minor problems of the occupational field of “equine nourishment” sector, and what countermeasures would you suggest?
The major problem is the lack of information and the weight of tradition, as I said before, making it hard to introduce any kind of food innovation. The most positive factor is that universities and new generations of livestock farmers are increasingly concerned about this issue. In fact, The Complutense University of Madrid has recently upgraded their studies on animal nutrition (With a focus on having healthier food for humans by taking into account the quality of what we feed animals with), when it wasn’t until a few years ago that it was just an isolated module in the veterinary degree.
What’s fundamental for the coming years is enhancing the training and increasing awareness in this field as well as promoting information campaigns that reach all livestock sectors. It’s essential to generate the ecosystem that EQUINOCOL is projecting.
Qualifications and Career Opportunities in Agtech
What can your company offer that other employers cannot?
Despite our newcomer status in this sector, we can offer the knowledge derived from the investigation of Equinocol’s product. Our contribution is endorsed by UCM’s School of Veterinary, as well as our clients. Likewise, we can offer an appealing project with projection to the future to whoever is interested in advancing the nutritional field and, above all, innovative spirit.
Which measures do you perform to promote the cooperation of your employees?
The key measure is fostering the involvement of my employees in the project, making them feel like an important part of it and its success, so cooperation far exceeds the mere labor relationship.
How important are foreign experience and international communications skills to you in the agtech sector?
It would be interesting if, just as in clinical practices, there was an exchange of knowledge in nutritional topics; however, the reality is that this type of experience in the field is nonexistent for the time being, which makes progress even slower.
Are there differences between the theoretical science of equine and livestock nourishment and the real market situations? What is important for graduates?
What’s most conspicuous is that in veterinary degrees the nutritional aspects don’t really represent significant credit in careers, and they are very vague, since the veterinary degree has a focus on clinical practice. Consequently, it’s important for graduates to be specifically instructed in this field and, above all, practice, in the production process, as in the tracking and evaluation of the results in these animals. At Equinocol we have tested the substantial decrease of cramps, one of the most serious issues in horses, and gastrointestinal ulcers, thanks to the incorporation of our product to their diet.
What career opportunities are currently available in the agtech sector, and how will these change, in your opinion?
Opportunities will come from the sector’s capacity for innovation. As the tendency towards a more natural and physiological alimentation that’s suitable for horses gets consolidated, more qualified and sensitized jobs will follow.
Which basic qualifications should an employee fulfil to get employed at your company? What are basic requirements to getting started?
The key requirements would be:
- Training in the nutritional field
- An Innovative spirit
- Capacity for teamwork
- Knowledge of the equine world in general
As basic requirements for getting started, I’d highlight two:
- Eagerness for learning
- Enthusiasm and sensitivity towards the equine world
Which three qualities should an ideal candidate have to start a career in agtech?
- Involvement and respect for animals in general and for horses specially
Beatriz, thank you very much for this interview!