Entrepreneurship Jan-Dirk van der Tol has been doing since he graduated in 1992 and always together with associates. Until the agricultural technician started Feedtuber independently in 2016. That was not a conscious decision, rather a development that resulted from circumstances ánd a good idea. Now he is still looking for a partner to join the company, because, "On your own you are always right, but together you achieve more.
Only looking back on his career does Jan-Dirk realize that he has always sought collaboration with associates. 'Now that I am boss on my own, I miss an involved sparring partner. Someone who thinks along critically and brings in other qualities. I'm pretty good at the commercial side of business, but if I'm honest, my heart lies with technical development of machines. That is also how Feedtuber came into being. Inventing and building new machines is one thing, selling them is something completely different. I have done that before, but would now like to have a partner who is especially strong in that. An investor with a heart for the business and a suitable network.
Flinc is helping him in this search, as the connecting link between innovative startups and financiers. Although finding an investor was a need that only surfaced in conversation. 'Initially I went around the table with Bjorn Redmeijer because I wanted someone with an understanding of numbers to look with me,' says Jan-Dirk. 'The process with Flinc was valuable because it stimulates you to examine your entire company thoroughly. My fledgling cooperation with a German company offers great opportunities - I sell smaller machines for them in the Benelux, they take my machines into their network - but it is desirable to follow more tracks. So we are now looking for a strategic partner who wants to help build Feedtuber further.'
Eye for machines
Lemmer-based Feedtuber is a niche player in the field of technical systems for the so-called slurping* of all types of animal feed and biomass. This is done with redesigned machines that have sprung from the brain of a farmer's son with a technical heart. 'At home on our farm, as a boy I only had eyes for the machines,' Jan-Dirk laughs. So he went to study mechanical engineering and, after graduating, started a contracting company with two companions. 'A few years later I became acquainted with a machine for slurrying in America and saw opportunities to market it in the Netherlands and Europe. My mates were somewhat less interested in it, so I decided to take the chance for myself.'
Soon the Frisian entrepreneur found a partner in the Czech Republic who wanted to take care of the Eastern European market. 'Together we ran Eurobagging for almost twenty years. Until my partner's son - who was already working for us at the time - wanted to buy in. A smart boy who very much deserved his place, only: three captains on the ship I didn't like. So I sold my shares to the son in 2016 and started considering the next step. Just at that time, I was approached by a client who needed a slurry machine that was less wide. His idea appealed to me and I presented it to the Czechs, but they didn't want to do anything with it. And so I decided to design it myself.'
On your own you are always right, but together you achieve more.
Jan Dirk van der Tol, agricultural technician
Jan-Dirk deliberately submitted his ideas to two engineers from outside the agricultural sector. 'It was necessary to reinvent an existing concept,' he explains. 'This went beyond tightening it up or improving it; the machine needed to be quite a few meters narrower and that really called for a different design. Thanks in part to the fresh eyes of two other technicians and their skills in computer drawing, my ideas were honed and successfully implemented. We developed three new machines that take up less space and are practical to use, also because they are not classified as tractors on the road, but as trucks.'
There is plenty of interest in the new machines. 'From the agricultural sector as well as from the green-processing side, because our technology is also suitable for the chain of reuse of biomass streams,' says Jan-Dirk. He invested in the prototypes himself, from equity from the shares sold from his previous company. 'The bank is cautious when it comes to innovative machines in a niche market,' the entrepreneur noted. 'I have already sold a number of machines, but to cash in on all the opportunities I hope to find a venture investor through Flinc. Someone who is really enthusiastic about the product and has a good network.'
Right people and resources
Jan-Dirk himself wants to continue to focus on innovation. 'Listening carefully to customers and translating their wishes and needs into technical ideas: that's what I do best and what I enjoy most. My vision is that it works if everyone does what they are good at. For that reason, I consciously outsource production to parties who can do that well and efficiently. Manufacturing myself in Lemmer has no added value, although in time it would be smart to assemble the parts in our own warehouse. The plans and possibilities are there, the main thing is to keep the company's machinery running smoothly with the right people and the right resources.'
*Inslurving is the ensiling of livestock feed and/or grinding and compressing biomass for storage or further processing in a foil trunk.