starting business success stories: corvitac

starting business success stories: corvitac

What is behind corvitac?

In agriculture, the automation of work processes has been advancing for a long time – including in animal husbandry. Digitization holds a lot of potential for livestock farms: not only the facilitation of physically or temporally intensive activities, but also the support in ensuring safe food and animal welfare.

corvitac has tracked down such potential. The startup develops camera-based counting systems for pigs. Their system automatically collects and processes count data, for example for legally required semi-annual animal population reports on key dates or in the event of animal population changes. This means that verifiably correct figures can be collected and automatically reported to public databases. The automated counting technology replaces the error-prone and sometimes time-consuming manual counting that has been the standard on farms up to now.

The idea originated in the pigsty

The idea for the image-based counting system came to founder Manuel Sprehe on his parents’ farm. When repeated counts yielded different results for a key date report on the pig population, the mechanical engineer was sure that the problem had to be solved in a smarter way: “Without further ado, I wrote a first counting program that did not yet work automatically. Little by little, I sounded out its potential. That’s how the idea for a system that counts independently using image recognition came about.”

Sprehe was also able to convince his co-founders of this potential. Timo Kaiser is the AI expert on the team: He studied mechatronics and is now working on his doctorate in computer vision, while Yiyun Luo, who studied electrical engineering and information technology, is the specialist for the front end of the software. Sprehe contributes industry and business experience from agriculture in addition to his technical knowledge from his mechanical engineering studies.

EXIST scholarship secured prototype development

On the way from the idea to market entry, the team was helped by the offers of startup funding at Leibniz University Hannover. The successful completion of the Student Accelorator Program for Robotics and Automation was followed by the approval of the EXIST startup grant with the support of starting business. The grant from the funding program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) secured the initial funding to develop the prototype. “Without EXIST, the development would have been difficult. And it would also have meant giving away a lot of company shares very early on,” Sprehe looks back.

Founded in 2019, corvitac GmbH now distributes various counting systems for pig farming in the German and international markets. For this purpose, the startup was able to gain an experienced sales partner who supports the sales structures in the company. Founder Sprehe has a clear perspective for the future development of the startup: He would like to offer comprehensive automated monitoring services for animal husbandry with corvitac. The livestock figures already collected now are to be meaningfully integrated with other farm data in the future. Their systems should not only facilitate bureaucratic documentation, but also automate and optimize farm management.

Team and start-up support decisive success factors

Sprehe appreciates how well the founding team works together and thus contributes significantly to corvitac’s success. From the very beginning, he says, open and proactive communication within a binding framework was important to the three. “Despite everything, you also simply need perseverance for all the challenges you will face.” That’s what Sprehe and his now ten-person team have proven so far.

The founder is also certain that the diverse consulting and coaching services and startup programs have decisively shaped corvitac’s path. From legal advice to startup bootcamps, workshops on online marketing to startup competitions, the team has thus not only been able to gain professional input, but also a good connection to startup networks, industry contacts and media attention.

What will the future bring?

“The networks via my family’s farm helped us a lot, especially in the startup’s initial phase, to acquire the first product testers and customers,” Manuel Sprehe reports. Looking back, however, the founder recommends not only relying on existing personal networks, but also actively approaching personally uninvolved market players. In this, he sees the chance to gain neutral feedback and honestly interested potential customers. “Widening the focus to other industry players and their prerequisites and business realities also helps to better understand the different needs in the market,” the founder knows. In the beginning, the team mainly focused on smaller farms and only later realized the great interest of large and international farms for their products. The startup has been actively pursuing the potential in international livestock markets ever since, and is currently undergoing a Chilean startup program to prepare for entry into the Latin American market.


written by: Manuel Sprehe

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