Finding the idea

The idea for SwineTech came to Matthew Rooda (BA Enterprise Leadership, 2017) in 2015 when he was working at Schneider Pork Farms located in Waterloo, Iowa. When he realized the daily impact piglet deaths had on the pork industry, it was easy to see that something needed to be done.

SwineTech is an Ag-Tech company that uses technology to reduce pre-wean mortality and improve herd health on sow farms. This farrowing monitoring system encourages sows to stand up, preventing the piglets from being accidentally crushed underneath their mother.

Why is this so important? The device aims to save millions of piglets’ lives annually, while also solving an industry problem that costs pork producers billions each year.

Starting up in Iowa

After transferring to University of Iowa in 2015, Rooda (CEO) and his co-founder Abraham Espinoza (Computer Science, 2017) (COO) joined the Founders Club to help launch their business. Housed in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory at UI, the Founders Club supports entrepreneurial students as they pursue the creation of a startup by providing them with valuable resources.

SwineTech soon added John Rourke (CTO) to the team. A veteran of manufacturing, engineering, and product design industries, Rourke founded his first company during his time as an engineering student at the University of Iowa.

The team spent the summer of 2015 in the Student Accelerator program, where they learned how to accelerate the startup process. Focusing on customer discovery, SwineTech conducted over 200 interviews with farmers around the world in order to identify the needs of their target market. This significantly increased their company’s success.

As SwineTech grew from an idea to a fully-operational business, its founders have continued to make use of the various Iowa JPEC resources available to entrepreneurs. When they found themselves in need of assistance, the Entrepreneurial Management Institute (EMI) consulting students took on the task. These students assisted in areas including marketing, human resources, engineering, product development, and more. SwineTech also utilized student interns through the Iowa Innovation Associates (IIA) program. According to Rooda, their elite business students’ "out of the box thinking" has helped them make business decisions that have greatly improved how the company is run.

Bringing home the bacon

The SwineTech team has spent the past 2015-2017 traveling the country, competing and placing in over twenty pitch competitions. Just a year after their business was founded, SwineTech surpassed the $130,000 level in prizes and has had just over $100,000 in sales.

One of SwineTech's most notable achievements occurred in April of 2016 at the International Business Model Competition (IBMC). SwineTech was selected to compete at the IBMC, co-hosted by Brigham Young University and Harvard University, out of 5,113 teams representing 482 schools from 29 countries. The student business was awarded first place at the competition, and took home a cash prize of $30,000. SwineTech was also awarded the Nation Student Entrepreneur of the Year and Global Student Innovation of the Year by the Entrepreneur's Organization, the largest entrepreneurship group in the world.

For student entrepreneurs looking to launch their own business, Rooda shared, "Dedication and perseverance will expose true pain points and give you commercially relevant ideas. You are not an expert at running a business, so get advice from seasoned entrepreneurs and listen, because they could very well be handing you the road-map to success."

What’s next for SwineTech? As they continue to pitch their product throughout the country, including the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, the team will be overseeing trials on customer farms and analyzing data from behavioral trials.