Karen Schuett, co-founder and CEO of Calgary-based agtech company Livestock Water Recycling, knew she had a winning business idea when she encountered her first “manure lagoon.” They’re the large, outdoor pits most farmers use to store the manure their livestock produces until it can be used as fertilizer.
These lagoons, however, are prone to leaks and spills, which can contaminate waterways, and are also expensive to maintain. Schuett and her team developed a water treatment system that easily separates organic particles from clean water, providing farmers with a valuable service and new sources of revenue. Many LWR customers sell the resulting processed manure as fertilizer or as feedstock for biogas, and they also have the option to participate in ecosystem markets for carbon and water
The Challenge: After a decade of slow-but-steady organic growth, Schuett was looking to scale. Which meant international expansion. With rising interest in renewable fuels and soaring fertilizer prices, LWR started attracting clients from markets outside of North America. Schuett realized she needed support.
“If you haven’t scaled a team at this rate, you just don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “And there aren’t a lot of places where you can find mentors who have scaled a Canadian business internationally and navigated all the hurdles that come along with that, such as assessing credibility in your supply chain or the logistics of marketing overseas.”
The Strategy: Michael Madsen, a MaRS executive in residence and one of Schuett’s mentors in the Momentum program, worked with her to develop a two-pronged growth strategy. First, they determined the most cost-effective way to reach potential clients.
“Geographical expansion goes back to the broader conversation of what channels you use to go to market. There are thousands of dairy farms in the Midwest, and a company like Livestock Water Recycling can’t afford to visit all those dairy farmers,” he explains.
Instead, Madsen looked to his network to help Schuett identify potential customers to target individually with a tailored pitch. From those pitches, Livestock Water Recycling secured contracts with clients in 12 U.S. states
Then, they figured out how to position the company to attract investors who could fund further expansion. They fine-tuned the way she talked about the company’s founding so it would immediately appeal to potential investors, highlighting that LWR provides clients with new revenue streams
The Impact: LWR has been actively building contacts in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The company is in the process of raising $20 million in Series A funding, which they will use to fuel that growth and launch new products. Schuett estimates they’re on track to double revenue each year over the next three years, achieving 30 percent market penetration and pushing the company to $100 million in annual sales.
“It’s so important, especially as a female CEO, to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to grow this globally.’ So, we’re going to take this everywhere. We’re going to grow it throughout Canada, throughout North America and throughout the world,” says Schuett. “We want to be a massive global success.”
Funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the Momentum program works with high-growth Canadian companies to accelerate their path to hitting $100 million in revenue. Is your business Canada’s next anchor company? Find out more and apply to join the program.