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Start-Up Spotlight: FarrPro

FarrPro founders Amos Petersen and Chris Hanson are on a mission to save piglet lives.

Farrowing operations see an average prewean mortality rate of about 18%. About half of that number is attributed to crush death, and the rest is due to chilling, disease, and starvation.

Because piglets need an environment of about 90°F. to 95°F. in facilities that are typically kept around 75°F., they seek warmth from artificial heat sources like heat lamps or from the sow, which puts the piglets at risk of being rolled on, laid on, or stepped on and crushed.

“The problem is that suboptimal thermal environments are upstream of every preventable cause of piglet mortality,” explains Petersen. “So it’s really about making the environment for the piglets better.”

FarrPro’s first product, the Haven, replaces the antiquated and ineffective heat lamps in farrowing rooms and creates a semi-enclosed microenvironment in which piglets can mature safely at an optimal temperature.


How it Works

The Haven unit mounts on the wall between two farrowing crates and plugs in where a heat lamp normally would. Curtains lining two sides of the unit help create the microenvironment and keep drafts out of the creep area where the piglets lie. A thick glass tube inside the unit warms up and radiates far infrared energy that is reflected straight down into the bodies of the piglets. This emulates a noonday-sun effect.

The Haven has thermal regulation built in the unit itself, which allows the producer to adjust the temperature to exactly what the piglets need. This control keeps the environment optimized for each stage of the piglet growth cycle. In addition to maintaining a precise climate in which piglets can safely grow, the Haven has many tangential benefits. It reduces sow stress and keeps the sow from overheating (since the ambient environment is separate from the microclimate), it reduces energy usage due to the insulated enclosure, and it lowers ventilation costs, as a reduced amount of wasted heat means fewer running fans throughout the facilities.

Results

The preliminary data of the Haven’s effect on piglets has been overwhelmingly positive. In one cycle of testing, FarrPro’s Haven units were installed for 32 litters. The producers saw a reduction in prewean mortality vs. that in the control group by almost 40%.

In addition, Petersen says, “In one study we had, there was a barn with scours in one of the cohorts. The piglets in the two rooms that had our unit were significantly heavier possibly because they were better able to resist disease.”

A less stressful environment leads to healthier, heavier piglets and will mean revenue gains for producers.

FarrPro is currently looking for partners to participate in three- to six-month-long pilots prior to a full testing phase yet this year. The units will be made available for sale to the wider marketplace later in 2019.


About the Company

Founders: Amos Petersen, Chris Hanson

Headquarters: Iowa City, Iowa

Website: farrpro.com

Background: FarrPro created the Haven, a microenvironment that delivers the perfect amount of heat to newborn pigs and helps to prevent them from being crushed.

Funding: FarrPro received capital investment as a member of the 2017 Iowa AgriTech Accelerator cohort. In 2018, FarrPro completed a seed capital raise led by Grinnell Mutual, with Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Investment Fund, and a group of angel investors holding the remaining positions in the round.

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