Robots, sensors and complicated technical systems control the climate at Cashmere’s Beta Hatch facility where meal worms and their waste become protein, oil and nutrients for animal feed and crop fertilizer.
“A lot of people think about technology as software,” said founder and CEO Virginia Emery. “But there are other types of technology, too. We’re a biotechnology business. We use science and engineering.”
In East Wenatchee, Loving Paws owner Catherine Stockton uses technology to keep pet parents updated on their furbabies’ “home away from home” at the pet daycare/boarding facility she opened in July 2019.
“When it comes to tech, there are a bunch of things I do daily, but what all the pet parents enjoy the most is the photos and videos they get, which is everything from the cute nap time photos to action shots I take here at the business, to taking a tripod with us to the park and catching all of those amazing shots around the area,” she said.
Technology plays a role for both ventures, acknowledged in the NCW Tech Alliance’s 2021 Innovator Awards in September where Beta Hatch’s Emery was named Entrepreneur of the Year. The startup also won the NCW Tech Alliance’s Flywheel Investment Conference top prize in 2019. Stockton’s Loving Paws Daycare and Boarding was a 2021 Innovator Award nominee as a Newcomer in Technology.
Although their tech needs are at opposite ends of the tech spectrum, Stockton and Emery embrace the idea of making the most of the tools at hand to meet the needs of their business.
It’s vital at Beta Hatch.
The company relies on technical equipment and high-tech software and, given its pioneering nature, goes a step further to create its own tools to solve specialized issues, with patent-pending results, Emery said.
“We couldn’t do what we do without technology,” she said. “We have climate systems that require reference points to control the environment in the room. We have a wifi network to communicate how that’s handled, to provide constant humidity. If we didn’t have that, the insects wouldn’t grow properly. They would die if it’s too hot or too cold. We have all sorts of behind the scenes things, from design and layout to sensors. All that is fundamental to keeping the business going.”
The process continues to evolve.
“We are discovering new things all the time. On a monthly basis, we have an invention, a modification. It’s part of the culture. We’re doing something new, so we don’t know what we don’t know. Other crops we’ve been eating for a millennia. This is only a couple of years old. There’s a huge amount of learning. Innovation is a constant for us,” she said. “It’s not an off-the-shelf process. We can’t order up the billions of bugs we need. We need to figure out how to grow them ourselves. We’re not reinventing the wheel, but it’s unique to what we need to do.