Ekonoke is a Madrid-based company with a disruptive business model. It produces hops of the highest quality, ensuring sustainability and reliability of supply, and developing climate-resilient agricultural solutions with the least use of resources.
We had the opportunity to talk with Inés Sagrario, CEO and Co-founder of Ekonoke, which participated in our Eatable Adventures Acceleration Program (EAA) in 2019. Read on to learn more about Ekonoke’s experience as part of the acceleration program.
Could you narrate Ekonoke’s journey since you’ve been part of our accelerator program?
Ekonoke joined the Eatable Adventures Accelerator Program in September 2018. Our original project had nothing to do with what we are now. Even the partners at the beginning told us the project wasn’t quite right, but that they were confident in our team. We made fundamental decisions together to put the project on a better track, becoming who we are now.
In the first place, we suffered some confluence of our work with the Eatable Adventures team and the alterations of climate change we had to face. In March 2019 there was a beastly heatwave in Madrid, passing 40 degrees in the greenhouse, which was not prepared for it. This led to a drop in production, making us unable to get to serve customers we already committed with.
During this time we realized we couldn’t continue working in a greenhouse, and we had to switch to indoor cultivation.
With support from Eatable Adventures, we also realized that our vertical garden model focused on Horeca was not a scalable project, but rather an artisanal one. Responding to what our restaurant clients requested, we made our first change by offering ready-for-harvest live mini-gardens. Through Eatable, we were introduced to a variety of events, and in one of them, we met our partners Tallos microgreens. In combining the two projects, the brand Ekonoke was born.
Simultaneously, we continued testing with crops that did not have climate risk, one of them being hops, which has led us to what we are today.
Walk us through your rebranding process decision, why did you decide to focus only on one type of crop, as well as only selling your products at a B2B level?
We put together the situation Ekonoke was in at the time. On the one hand, our mini-gardens were not being profitable. Despite receiving very positive feedback from customers, we didn’t have the level of repetition that we had envisioned in our pre-covid business model.
On the other hand, having already been working with hops and being in contact with breweries, we realized that the brewing industry faced an important challenge of supplying their raw material sustainably and reliably.
Putting these two situations together, the answer was clear. One of the strongest supporters of our decision to completely change our business model has been Jose Luis Cabañero, CEO of Eatable Adventures.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received from Jose Luis in our Accelerator Program?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that the greatest advice I have received from Jose Luis was not really during the Acceleration Program period. Once you are part of the program, you create bonds, connections, and relationships that last a lifetime. It is very valuable to have a team behind your project with a vision and the ability to guide and support you as you make future decisions.
Having said that, the biggest piece of advice he told us was to decide to focus on growing hops. It was hard to accept and put aside our mini-garden project, but after long conversations with Jose Luis, he made us understand that the future of Ekonoke was in being a hops company.
Where do you envision Ekonoke in the short and long-term future?
In the short term, we are already working to have our first commercial-scale hop growing facility in Galicia, having close connections with Estrella de Galicia’s brewery. We want to show the world that different types of crops can be grown in different ways, starting with hops, so that food and ingredients do not have to travel thousands of miles, but rather the knowledge and technology will do.
In ideally 4-5 years, we will have our indoor hop growing facilities available worldwide, being the leading company that has completely revolutionized the hop industry.