We talked to Mante Sidlauskaite of Cogastro about the data gathering and analysis platform, and she had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mante Sidlauskaite: Thank you for asking. Myself, my family, and colleagues are doing fine, despite all the challenges and uncertainty. We all had to adapt and make some changes in our routines which not necessarily means a bad thing. However, I am already waiting for more social freedom in our everyday lives.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cogastro.
Mante Sidlauskaite: To make a long story short, I started to work in an international IT company as an HR manager in the last year of my Master’s studies. At that company, we build SaaS and custom products for large corporates and smaller businesses around the world. I met amazing C-level people and had an opportunity to learn from them.
During that time, I continuously thought about my mission, the sustainability, and the environment. I believe that each of us can make a huge positive impact, and I wanted to use my energy and time on critical global problems. Unexpectedly, I heard about insect farming and the sustainability behind it. From that moment, I started to dig in deeper and learn more about animal feed and the human food market, challenges there, and how insects could be applied as a sustainable source of protein.
The more I knew, the more excited I got, so in 2017, I finally decided to quit the job and fully concentrate on insect farming and processing. At first, I launched an experimental farm in Lithuanian Forest Institute to understand the business domain better. While running experiments and farming mealworms (lot. Tenebrio Molitor), I understood how time-consuming and difficult it is to consistently track important metrics.
Since I had an IT experience, together with a couple of engineers, we started to prototype and build a data gathering and analysis platform that would help save time and bring valuable daily insights on how to optimize insect farming operations. We were lucky that a couple of visioners – within the insect industry-noticed us in the early stage and helped validate the idea, so we launched the company in 2019 to start delivering the solution to them.
How does Cogastro innovate?
Mante Sidlauskaite: Cogastro is a data gathering and analysis platform that empowers quicker access to knowledge, optimization, and control of insect farm daily operations. What is more, Cogastro helps to eliminate farming-related risks and assure traceability. It is a first on the shelve precision farming software explicitly designed for insect farming operations. We are under the development of unique optimization algorithms, and also this year at Cogastro, we are planning to expand our service portfolio by offering some additional IoT service to support data flow automation for our customers’ growth.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mante Sidlauskaite: Cogastro works with customers in the food and feed industries. Supply chains within these industries had to adapt. I need to say that it is still adapting to the current situation, and it ’causes new challenges; however, the food and feed production can’t stop. The final products derived from insects remain in need due to increasing soy prices, overfished oceans, deforestation, and increasing CO2 emissions. Our client’s businesses established a long time ago before the pandemic because of that is successfully up and running. Since we work globally, we can observe how each region adapts differently. However, on a personal level, it affects us all in the same way – we are all concerned about our family’s health and wellbeing.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mante Sidlauskaite: So far, there was no critical choice to make yet. Only continuing process improvements will also serve us after this crisis, and we will grow even better and stronger. This pandemic also spotlighted the need for technology and innovations with remote access and control options, and we are happy to be just on time to facilitate it.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mante Sidlauskaite: No secret sauce here. I am still learning to cope with it. It always helps to understand the reasons that cause me stress and anxiety, that I would be able to draw some conclusions which I could use next time when dealing with feelings. So, to summarize, I would mention 3 words – self-analysis, awareness, and thinking.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mante Sidlauskaite: We do not have a direct competition yet, but we compete with IT solutions that are built for other agriculture businesses. However, the insect farming domain has its difference, and we have a clear focus on this niche market. Another competitor is custom development service or in-house development; however, it is time-consuming. It requires the investment and the skills, and there is always a high risk that you might end up with the not desired result.
Our advantage is the community of industry experts that uses the platform. Since it is growing, the solution is soon to offer additional knowledge and intelligence exchange services between parties and create an even more competitive advantage to everyone who uses the solution. In other words, Cogastro is not only about the software or hardware solutions but data-driven insights for insect industry growth. This is the future.
Your final thoughts?
Mante Sidlauskaite: We are proud of what we build and the industry we work with. It is exciting to be among pioneers and leaders who are doing business and are on the mission to fight against global environment issues.
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