We had a chat with Andrea Izquierdo Ruiz, founder of hai, an AgriTech startup based in Manchester who participated in the University of Lincoln Agritech Accelerator.
Tell us about hai
hai is an agritech startup based in Manchester. Funded by an engineer with a passion for making a positive impact through technology, and a strong project manager with experience in product development. We develop tools that enable indoor farmers to consistently produce high-quality crops by optimising resources and OPEX investment through plant root monitoring - shaping the future of smart farming.
Why did you join the University of Lincoln Agritech Accelerator?
Well, Lincoln is well known for their agricultural studies, however, we didn't know about the programme. We were introduced to Wendy, and she explained about the application and the programme and encouraged us to apply ... a couple of weeks later we were starting the Accelerator!
Which entrepreneur inspires you the most and why?
I would say Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. I think from how he started to what is Patagonia at the moment is just an incredible and inspiring journey. I admire how he has such clear goals and a mission. The quality that they keep not only in their products but also in choosing their shops location, their staff... everything is so well organised and thought of.
Whats been your biggest win in your entrepreneurial journey so far and why?
Personally, I would say the final Pitch of the Accelerator (we didn't win) but the experience of doing it and not messing it up was. BIG BIG BIG win! As a team, when we won the Venture Further Awards (event organised by the University of Manchester focused on startups) Once we won, this whole adventure (hai) got real!
And your biggest challenge?
Time management, we're both about to finish our PhD, building a company, and working part-time to pay our bills! But hey! it is worth it :)
Where did you go for business advice and how did it help you?
We were lucky enough to start hai with the advice of Charles Veys from FOTENIX, he's been of massive help introducing us to the business world and guiding us in the agritech Sector! Now we have more mentors/advisors from different programmes we've been accepted and some competitions, each one of them brings different expertise and so far we've had incredible support from all of them.
What drives you to make your business a success?
My main driver is to help tackle the greatest health and environmental challenge of our century, which is to make agriculture more resilient to climate change by creating practices that minimise its environmental impact while increasing its productivity. I believe we should help take of our environment while at the same time ensure everyone has nutritious food in their table.
What advice would you give to other founder thinking about starting their own business?
Don't give up!.. and go out and talk to people... real people; family and friends will always be supportive, and that is great!. But you need people to be brutally honest and to challenge you!
Why did you want to start your own business?
Because I wanted to put the knowledge I've developed in my research to a good use.
What do you think the future of agrifood looks like and why?
It's a future where multi-disciplines are working together for the betterment of our food supplies, in other words, a more environmentally aware industry. Seeing the effects of climate change across the globe is making us more aware that we only have one earth and while it provides us with all that we need, we must take care of it.