With biodegradable BioAmmo finally hitting the shelves in the UK, GTN caught up with founder Enrique López-Pozas Lanuza and asked about the journey to this point.
“I would not have made it through without my beautiful wife”, BioAmmo founder Enrique sighs, “she kept encouraging me, she believed in me, she kept telling me this was something I had to do.”
We’ve got to a dark point in his story. Years after he first came up with the idea of producing biodegradable ammo for shotguns, BioAmmo founder Enrique is still getting nowhere. He has no funding, no manufacturing base, no distribution deals, just a single, unwavering idea: That the world would be a better place with biodegradable shotgun cartridges and that he is the man to deliver them.
What he does have is equally extraordinary. In addition to ‘the love of a good woman’, he has an instinctive self belief, that maybe comes from his family heritage of serving in Spain’s armed forces, or as he puts it: “in my family there is two hundred years of colonels and generals”; he has several world-class patents that describe and protect the idea he has been kindling; and he has in his pocket a remarkable number of signed commitments to order that he collected over one weekend at IWA despite not having an actual product to show anyone. “I thought I might as well collect them and take them home to show the bank,” he chuckles. He’s been getting nowhere with the bank in the story to date either.
There’s one other thing that Enrique possesses. He has an enormous charisma. Even in the middle of lockdown, talking to a stranger in a foreign language hundreds of miles away on the phone he is extremely charming.
Before the end of the conversation, GTN has been invited over to visit Segovia, Enrique’s corner of Spain, and sample the local delicacy ‘Cochillions’, literally ‘little pigs’, “they never see grass,” Enrique explains, “they are fed only on milk, and then we cook them very slowly. People come from all across Spain (and the world) to eat them.”
There be dragons
So let’s start the story in the beginning, in 2008. Enrique has a revelation, an epiphany, one that he thinks he may have had partly because he is Spanish. Why can’t we produce biodegradable shotgun cartridges, he wonders? Spain is a country that takes its recycling very seriously.
A big driving factor in that is, Enrique believes, the tourist industry. “We must present a clean country for our visitors,” he explains. So when he’s out shooting one day and sees the cartridges slowly littering the floor around him, and realises that no one is ever going to bother to pick up so many small cartridges, and subsequently discovers that there are between 45 and 60 billion shotgun cartridges used very year across the world, he decides he has to do something about it. “Because it is plastic, it will never go away,” he warns. “One day you will end up drinking it.”
So quietly and solidly he researches the solution with the slow-burning passion of the enlightened. He discovers the right kind of biopolymer, constructed from plant-based materials, he files patents, he develops a business plan, and then, with his patents secured, he reaches out to what he imagines will be the open arms of the major manufacturers and offers them the licence to make his planet-saving cartridges.
The overwhelming response is… indifference—“No one wanted to know.” Enrique approached the big five manufacturers one by one, and not one of them was interested.
Undaunted, Enrique then began three long years of meetings and presentations that took him around the world. He calculates he presented his business plan, Dragon’s Den style, over 200 times in that period, facing rejection every single time. He went to IWA every year, and took orders for his imaginary ammo, but he found no backers.
That was when his wife’s support kept him going, when she would pick him up after every rejection and remind him that his was a great idea. It’s hard to imagine the toll 200 rejections must make on you, when you are presenting something you are so passionate about, that you invented, so we will safely add extraordinary perseverance to the list of qualities Enrique possesses.
Keep it local
Enrique’s second epiphany came towards the end of those three long years. Running around the world was not working. He needed to make it personal, he needed to make it local, he needed his community and his country.
So he put together a fateful meeting, piece by piece, using his charisma to twist arms and to charm, and he got together in one room representatives of Spain’s central government and representatives of his local government (the districts are powerful political entities in Spain), he brought along some investors who had previously said ‘no’ but less forcefully than the others, some enthusiastic hunters from Madrid who loved the idea and wanted to invest but had comparatively little money, and his local bank manager.
He laid out the implications of his plan to them, of the jobs it would create in the local economy and of the impact it could have across the world, of how it would make Spain a global leader in eco manufacturing: he appealed to local sensibilities and to national ones, and slowly he won them round. By the end of the meeting Enrique had an agreement, he had his investors, and his brand, BioAmmo, was born.
Since then Enrique has overseen the investment of eight million euros into his state of the art production facility in Segovia. Split into two parts, the factory has a large R&D department, while the other building is for warehousing.
It must represent one of the largest entries into the gun trade market in years, a traditional market that doesn’t always welcome innovation. Yet, here it is.
You know it’s coming
And then, having sunk all this money into the business, and with the first shells rolling off the production line, the world literally caught a cold—and Covid-19 started to have its lethal impact.
“It was not great,” Enrique admits, “but actually there were some definite advantages for us. We spent the time refining our marketing, and ironing out any technical glitches on the assembly lines, so that when we finally went ahead we were completely ready.”
And now it’s actually out there, how has his ‘baby’ been received. “Well,” he confides, “I am secretly very pleased. Not only is our ammo green and biodegradable, and the orders have been superb, but we have also been getting the most amazing feedback from shooters.
“Because of the extra rigidity our polymer brings to the case, hunters are reporting that they are hitting wildfowl 30 or 40 meters higher than they could before–with a conventional cartridge—so we believe we are outperforming our competitors too.”
BioAmmo? How does it work?
Constructed from non-toxic plant-based polymers, the casing and wadding of BioAmmo is designed so that natural enzymes will attack it, and it will completely biodegrade or biocompost within a year. Plastic casings take an estimated 450 years to biodegrade (although we don’t know for sure). Plastic can be recycled, but still stays in the environment, and only at a cost.
How green is my valley?
But amid all this self back-slapping and self-congratulation, GTN feels it has to ask about the decision to offer lead shot in the cartridges, surely that’s not very ‘green’?
You can almost hear Enrique marshalling his arguments.
“Lead is a toxin, yes. If it gets into the watercourse. I agree. But I also think that there are different needs in different parts of the world. England is a soft country, you see.”
GTN is not quite sure how to take this.
“Everywhere is green and grassy and soft. Spain on the other hand is a hard country, with lots of granite sitting on the surface of the land. And so you do not need lead so much in England.
“But in Spain, if you shoot at something in a tree with steel shot, and there will almost certainly be a big, hard rock behind it, then the shot will come straight back at you, and it is not pleasant.”
Perhaps inevitably, Enrique is working on a solution. “I have a metal compound, it is not quite like lead, it is not toxic, but it is softer than steel. But at the moment it would cost £1 per cartridge, and that is not realistic. But we will succeed in bringing the price down until it works.”
There’s a hint there to the future, surely. With the big manufacturers who had previously ignored BioAmmo now sitting up and taking notice, any lead in the market BioAmmo currently enjoys will be short-lived. Enrique allows himself a chuckle at this line of questioning.
“I made my patents public some time ago, but they are hard to copy. And the cartridges are even harder to make in practice. We have gained a great deal of experience tooling our factory, and for now I believe that we are the only people in the world who can make this kind of cartridge successfully.”
But it turns out that the big manufacturers have all been out to have a look around, and that Enrique has welcomed them to do so. He bears no grudges, and appreciates that the future of his business will also depend on alliances, especially in the harder to crack markets—such as the USA.
BioAmmo is, he believes, stronger as a part of the munitions community. So as a final question, which does he see as his biggest marketplace?
“Without doubt it is the UK,” he answers, straight off the bat. And exactly what GTN wanted to hear. BioAmmo is just the sort of innovative, forward-thinking product that can help our industry to continue to grow. And if Enrique’s right, it might just make us all better shots too.
Ctra. Santa María La Real De Nieva
Nava De La Asunción
SG 343, km 44
40440 Segovia | Spain
Phone: +34 921 129 111
Enrique López-Pozas Lanuza
Founder and Chairman
Director International Markets
Shooting Star Ltd
07860 765 876
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