Ask entrepreneur Ross Thurston of Livestock Water Recycling. He talks about the impact of winning a $100,000 small business grant sponsored by TELUS and The Globe and Mail
Winning a large amount of money is a dream shared by most entrepreneurs eager to build their ventures. It was a dream come true for Canadian business owner Ross Thurston as his entry was selected in September 2013 from more than 1,000 applications to win a small business grant worth $100,000 in a contest sponsored by TELUS and The Globe and Mail.
“We’re now right in the middle of spending that money,” says Thurston. In its 800-word contest entry, Livestock Water Recycling explained how it faced market growth challenges resulting from strict government regulations around the importation of livestock manure and the capacity of its research lab. Upgrading its research and development facility to a commercial-grade, government-approved lab would enable the company to further innovate and embrace international sales opportunities.
With some of the funds received in October, Thurston says his company is busy building the free-standing lab which he anticipates will be up and running by early 2014.
About the company
A privately owned company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Livestock Water Recycling (LWR) supplies innovative manure treatment technologies for livestock operations.
The company created a water treatment system that allows a farm to treat manure and recycle all the nutrients and clean water back to their crops. Their unique process captures the value of manure resulting in clean water, dry solid nutrients, and a concentrated liquid nutrient all available for reuse by the farm operation. For example, an LWR system can help a dairy farm to effectively treat the large amount of manure produced by dairy cows. The company has systems installed and operating in farms throughout Canada and the United States.
In the news
While the funds are certainly helpful and will contribute to company objectives, Thurston was really surprised by the amount of international publicity created by the contest win. “The real thing that happened was the amount of attention it generated,” he says.
The story was “picked up in press across Canada and the United States” including a little piece on the Wall Street Journal website, recalls Thurston. “I was interviewed by the CBC – which made my Mom happy,” he says, adding that media coverage extended as far away as Europe.
If an interesting story is published in the mainstream media it may also get picked up by industry or trade magazines – a lucky turn for Thurston, who says there are a lot of publications around the subject of manure.
“Those publications were seen by our customers and potential customers, and within four or five days I was receiving congratulation emails from people we had talked to about our project several years ago,” explains Thurston. He was pleased to hear from farmers who called him after reading about his company. “Farmers tend to be very busy,” he says.
Coverage of the contest and company has helped to spur new interest in LWR, and Thurston hopes that interest will convert to sales. “People are just super interested. It got a lot of good discussion going,” he enthuses. “We found out a lot people were watching us and the contest win encouraged them to contact us.”
In addition to publicity, Thurston says the contest win has made him a sought-after speaker as people want to learn more about what his company is doing. “My speaking calendar is full as well,” he says, sharing that he recently participated in a high-profile roundtable webinar set up by the federal government. “I’m giving another talk at an industry conference in Wisconsin in December,” he adds.
Everyone needs food, everyone needs water, and everyone wants a clean environment to live in.
“Livestock Water Recycling may be a small business, but there's nothing small about this company's contribution to the sustainability of our very important agricultural sector," said Jim Senko, TELUS vice-president of Small Business Solutions, and one of the contest judges.
According to the UN Water Development Report, agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. Yet there are more and more people to feed from the same resources: by 2050, experts predict we need to increase world food production by 70% in order to meet the needs of 9 billion people – an untenable position unless we embrace innovative methods to recycle and reuse.
It’s a challenge that gets Thurston up early every morning to get to work. “We have to figure out a way we are going to get that food with the same amount of resource,” he says. “We need to recycle and recapture as much of our water as possible.”
The contest award and the publicity and sales potential generated will help LWR to advance on that mission. An entrepreneur since 1990, Thurston understands that it takes time and perseverance to build a business. “You must have a belief as an entrepreneur that you can fix any problem and get yourself through any situation. It’s fairly easy to come up with a set of steps that lead to success, but having the drive and the energy to go and work away at getting there – often in an underpaid environment where you are short on resources – really takes a lot of commitment.”