Ever had an omelette, or drank a glass of milk, and wondered how the cow that made your food got fed? Well, thanks to the over 6,000 feed mills in the US, you don’t have to. These mills, some of which have been around for centuries, keep livestock and other animals raised for husbandry well fed across the country. But like every industry, agriculture has its challenges. Increasing regulations and higher costs can equate to thinner margins and the need for more efficiency. That’s where Gretchen Henry, CEO of Sprout Solutions, comes in. Sprout offers tech solutions for commodity traders and mill operators that make their day-to-day businesses more efficient and profitable. Since winning a Techweek LaunchKC grant in 2016, they’ve been improving things for mills around the country. Techweek’s Head of Media, Prab Kumar, sat down with Gretchen to learn more.
- Prab: Tell us a little about your company today.Gretchen: Sprout Solutions provides mills and merchandisers in the agricultural industry with accurate, Web-based tools and systems to ensure the food they produce is not only safe, but traceable – from the farmer to the end user.
- Prab: That sounds great, and agritech is a super fascinating industry. What is the hair on fire problem you address?Gretchen: We help ease federal compliance, and automate daily business processing on the foundation of safe, traceable feed principles. Sprout Solutions’ customizable agribusiness software solutions meet the every-day needs of feed mills.
- Prab: How did you discover this problem and why did you tackle it?Gretchen: Growing up in an agriculture region and with family in the industry, I knew the financial principles of record keeping and process improvements could help with the challenges facing mills with tight margins and ever-increasing regulations.
- Prab: What’s the size of the problem? How big is this industry?Gretchen: In the U.S. , there are currently 6000 feed mills, and all mills are facing similar challenges in needing to do more with less, and with increasing regulations.
- Prab: What are the important trends that will shake up this industry? What will the industry look like in 5 or 10 years?Gretchen: Across the globe, it is essential to improve food and feed efficiencies – feeding more with less. Without a change to ease compliance while ensuring the industry can stay profitable, there will be an escalating consolidation of the market.
- Prab: How crowded is the space? What’s your competitive advantage behind your product or service that you believe makes it a winner?Gretchen: Our approach is unique to the current market in that we are providing a cloud-based solution – eliminating the need for our clients to maintain their own IT staff.
- Prab: Who are your customers and how do you make money?Gretchen: Our customers are feed mills and commodity traders. Ours is a subscription based service, metered based on the production of the operation.
- Prab: How do you attract customers, and how well has it gone? How did you acquire your first customer?Gretchen: Our emphasis has been in building our marketing strategy and getting our brand to the market. We have proven results in our product with our current customers, which validates our story to future clients.
- Prab: Tell us about raising capital – have you raised? What was the experience like? What did you learn?Gretchen: We are in the middle of a seed round of funding. Other than the LaunchKC grant of 2016, we have been bootstrapping our efforts to date.
- Prab: Tell us about you – why are you the perfect CEO for this company?Gretchen: I grew up in an agriculture community and have professional IT experience in financial record keeping systems. Sprout Solutions is the perfect synthesis of my agriculture and financial industry experiences.
- Prab: How many people are employed by you today? Are you hiring – if so who should apply?Gretchen: Sprout Solutions currently has three employees, and several strategic partnerships. Our seed round will be used to augment our team with additional sales, support and IT professionals.
- Prab: Three words to describe the company culture?Gretchen: Agile, Creative, CSI (Continual Service Improvements)
- Prab: What would be your company’s mascot?Gretchen: The Labrador. I have three labs — and their loyalty, dependability, positive outlook and perseverance are inspirational to all parts of life and business.
This interview originally appeared on Techweek.com.