By Sanjai Tripathi.
Kimberly Halzen really knows hedgehogs.
She got her first pet hedgehog, Inky, at age 13. Her love for Inky and inquisitive nature drove her to learn as much as she could about the creatures.
But Kimberly found it very difficult to find good information. There was no definitive source for guidance for hedgehog owners, of which there are an estimated quarter-million in the United States alone.
So Kimberly did a lot of research and wrote a book to help all hedgehog owners. She published Pet African Hedgehogs, A Basic Guide to Care while still in high school.
“I spent so much time online learning about how to properly care for [Inky] … hours on hours on online forums is what led me to write my care books, to address the questions that people have.”
She has since become a recognized authority in the community. She is currently working on the third edition of her book, operating a USDA-licensed breeding business, and staying active with education and rescue. All that is in addition to her job in the rehabilitation facility (the “doggie gym”) at Oregon State University’s veterinary teaching hospital.
Yet, Kimberly still isn’t finished. She is developing something new to meet a major need for hedgehog owners.
Hedgehogs are naturally insectivores. They evolved to primarily eat bugs. They need insect fiber for proper digestion. Lacking that, hedgehogs can have serious and messy problems related to health and hygiene problems .
However, there isn’t currently a high quality insect-based feed product available for hedgehog owners. Most owners end up feeding their hedgehogs cat food, which is made from meat and plant products and lacks the necessary fiber.
Kimberly is now working with the OSU Advantage Accelerator to launch a new company called Hedgehog Precision, which will provide specialized insect-based foods that are palatable and nutritionally appropriate for hedgehogs.
She started developing her products by putting insects into a blender in her kitchen. She tried different insect formulations and formed them into blocks. Then she ran a series of tests with her own hedgehogs, and those of volunteers, to determine which products the hedgehogs prefer.
“Hedgehogs are picky,” Kimberly explains. However, after rigorous testing, she identified a recipe for that satisfied all comers. “[The treats we developed] are extremely palatable for the hedgehogs. They all love them.”
Hedgehog Precision is now offering insect-based treats called “Bug Blocks” on their website at www.hedgehogprecision.com. Kimberly is also developing an insect-based staple food called Hedgehog Precision Diet that owners can feed their pets every day.
More challenges remain. Like any startup, Hedgehog Precision faces a litany of hurdles as it moves toward launch. Kimberly is developing recipes, building the website, setting up the accounting system, building supplier relationships and creating a production facility in her garage. Once those are all done, there will be more to do.
But Kimberly has help. She first credits her husband for being supportive. “He helps me in a million different ways,” including grinding bugs in the kitchen in the middle of the night.
She also gets support from the wider hedgehog community, where people are eager to help. One fellow hedgehog owner, for example, provided graphic design for the Hedgehog Precision logo.
The next steps for Hedgehog precision include acquiring an extruder for production and selecting a lab services company for nutrient analysis.
Kimberly is ready and eager to meet these challenges. “I have wanted to work on developing a specialized hedgehog food for a long time,” she says. Her passion for hedgehog care continues to drive her forward.
Learn more and follow Hedgehog Precision: