West Tech Report: EP&T
With the goal of helping the world change the way it produces food, North Vancouver’s Ecoation Innovative Solutions Inc. has created a product that autonomously scans plants, using the information to let farmers know which and how crops were stressed, so that solutions could be implemented to eliminate the use of pesticides. What does this mean for the world? On top of helping farmers grow more food at a lower cost, limiting the need to use pesticides, Ecoation is changing the way we produce food in a world where really harmful pesticides such as DDT are still used in parts of Africa. With technologies like Ecoation’s platform, we can democratize food quality and enable accessible, affordable clean food for all.
After placing in the top 10 in the BCIC-New Ventures Competition in 2014, they came back this year to win the big prize, announced in late September, of the BCIC New Ventures competition $110,000 first prize award as well as a $22,000 BC Resource Industry prize package.
West Tech Report recently had the opportunity to speak to Saber Miresmailli, founder and CEO of Ecoation, about the recent award and what has helped them succeed thus far. In an effort to eliminate pesticide use altogether, the entrepreneur became obsessed and focused on catching issues early.
“I studied biopesticides during my Masters and my focus was on finding a safer alternative for chemical pesticides. About 14 years ago, I had an ‘aha’ moment and I asked myself, why do we use pesticides in first place? The answer was of course because by the time we find issues on the farm, the damage is so advanced that we need to reach for the strongest weapon in our arsenal,” explains Saber Miresmailli.
Like they say, failure is the mother of success, and by the sounds of it, Ecoation has successfully jumped through a few hurdles and even a few fires to get to where they are today.
“Persistence! During the past seven years, four of which we were under the radar, we faced several near death moments as a company where our technology failed several times, our business model crashed, we ran out of money and were running on fumes as some key members left us,” says Miresmailli. “Throughout all this time, the one thing that helped us move forward was our belief in our concept and our conviction that we can tackle this problem and solve this issue, and so we did!”
The firm successfully participated in the BCIC New Ventures competition, which benefited Ecoation’s team in multiple ways and delivered lots of positive media exposure.
“Canada is the best place for entrepreneurs and the BCIC NVBC is a good example of the type of support and help that companies can receive which [can] ensure their success. Besides the financial reward, we received excellent mentorship and support [from those] who have been there and done that,” says Miresmailli.
The BCIC New Ventures competition has been running annually for 17 years, promoting entrepreneurship through innovation, offering education, coaching, and over prize money to BC startups.
“The process was extremely educational and while we were competing for the prize, the process polished our pitch and our overall message. I highly encourage other fellow start-ups to participate in the competition.”
Ecoation has had to overcome some pitfalls along its way and graciously provided some advice on how other tech firms could avoid similar setbacks in their future?
“Cash is king! At the beginning, we didn’t have enough money and my co-founder and I were basically moon-lighting our way through the process. We started to do lots of consultation projects to generate enough money to run our main idea. At that point, we were not aware of all the amazing programs that existed to support entrepreneurship and we felt extremely under pressure,” says Miresmailli.
Then, these entrepreneurs learned about NRC-IRAP and through them they learned about other programs that completely changed the trajectory of their venture.
“Validate your market as early as you can before you plunge in head first. Make sure that what you are building is solving a big pain,” says Miresmailli.
Ecoation is helping farmers grow more food at a lower cost, and they are changing the way we protect our food, following the idea that access to clean food is a human right.