Original article (French only) : Journal de Montréal
“The products we sell in China are always one generation behind. That way, if someone gets close to copying us, we release a new generation that’s more efficient, and they have to start over,” says Alain Lefebvre, President of Jyga Technologies in Saint-Lambert-de-Lauzon on Quebec City’s South Shore.
Founded in 1994, Jyga Technologies evolved into its current form when Alain Lefebvre bought the eight-person company in 2004, turning it into a cutting-edge tech SME with over 100 employees.
Today, its feeding equipment is distributed in some thirty countries, including China, where it’s been installed in six-story megafarms belonging to giants Tianzow and Groupe Han Swine, which has over 100,000 sows, a third of the total number in Quebec.
“There must be a least five Chinese copies that come out every year. They last six months and disappear,” notes Lefebvre, who co-owns the company along with his brother Donald. It has three permanent employees in China.
Quebec engineering has the edge
With young Quebec companies beating a path to China’s door in hopes of getting a foothold in its lucrative domestic market, Jyga Technologies has managed to beat the Chinese on their own turf with Quebec engineering.
“Our electronic boards, design, and IT development are all done 100% at our Saint-Lambert plant. We keep our expertise here,” explains Lefebre with pride.
But the company was no overnight success.
It took years of trial and error to figure out how to do business in a country that invests massively in giant facilities to ensure food self-sufficiency.
“It was a long road. We had been traveling back and forth to China for eight years. The door got slammed in our faces. So we started again from scratch,” says Lefebre. According to him, China has no shortage of cheap labor, but the country is growing so fast that there’s a constant thirst for expertise.
Before finding success in China, Russia, and the U.S., Jyga Technologies had to prove itself here, where some farmers were reluctant to bring technology into their pig barns.
“At the time, farmers thought automated feeding systems looked like something from outer space. But I saw an opportunity,” Lefebvre explains.
At the time farmers were hand feeding their sows six to eight times per day, which didn’t leave much time for them to spend with their kids. Lefebvre, a pig farmer himself, saw automation as a solution.
“We used to start at 5 a.m. and finish up at 10 p.m.,” he remembers. Today, his feeding systems are built to be user friendly.
“Many of our U.S. customers employ immigrant workers who can’t read or write, so we have to make sure they can still use our equipment,” he says.
Jyga Technologies is a family-owned business run by third-generation pig farmer Alain Lefebvre and his brother Donald, who own Aldo Farm. The Lefebre brothers acquired Jyga Technologies—which makes the Gestal swine feeding system—in 2004.