A glance at the startups that form part of the latest cohort at a global ag tech accelerator, paints a vivid picture of where the future of farming is going.
Sensors, blockchain, cell-cultured meat, biotechnology and artificial intelligence feature among the 2019 cohort of the Pearse Lyons Accelerator — and it also includes a homegrown participant.
SomaDetect is a Canadian start-up platform that uses light to instantly detect every compound in raw milk with an in-line sensor and matches that with algorithms to predict the presence and concentrations of major compounds in raw milk. It measures every critical indicator of dairy quality, including fat, protein, somatic cell count, progesterone and antibiotics, from every cow at every milking.
To date, the company has more than 100 sensors installed on farms in Canada and the United States and is tracking more than 4,000 cows through their system.
“We are currently especially focused on reproduction, so detecting pregnancy and heat based on what you can detect in the milk, specifically progesterone levels,” said SomaDetect co-founder and chief executive officer Bethany Desphande. Her father was living in Guelph when he developed the technology.
“The system has a machine learning component so it learns additional things as it goes along; it’s getting better and better in terms of what it measures and also at being able to detect more compounds.”
Being part of the accelerator means SomaDetect will have a chance to work with both Alltech and Dublin-based Dogpatch Labs, one of Europe’s leading tech community hubs, on continuing to shepherd their technology through the commercialization process. Now in its third year, the accelerator is named after the late founder of global animal nutrition company Alltech.
“It’s really difficult to find folks who understand and value dairy in the world of startups, so this is a really exciting development for us,” she said.
SomaDetect is joined in the accelerator by nine other startups from the United Kingdom, the U.S., Ireland and Portugal, with solutions focusing on animal welfare, meat quality, crop health and increasing productivity.
Higher Steaks is using state-of-the-art cell-culturing techniques to grow meat, specifically pork to start. Instead of adult animal stem cells, they’re using induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be grown indefinitely once harvested and can be used to grow any type of tissue.
Breedr is an app that lets livestock farmers use shared data to optimize yield, quality and profitability of every animal on their farm. Farmers can log breeding, medication, health and weight history for each animal in a record that transfers with the animal if it is sold. The app analyzes data from across its network to help with breeding decisions, and an integrated marketing tool lets farmers sell animals with traceable history or promote specialty livestock.
FOLIUM Science is creating a feed additive to protect young livestock or poultry from infections like salmonella and E.coli. Their anti-bacterial technology is based on a natural biomolecule that is programmed to cause the pathogen to destroy itself, enabling highly selective control of unwanted bacteria, including those with antimicrobial resistance.
Swinetech bills itself as a world leader in minimizing piglet death, particularly from crushing, through artificial intelligence. By evaluating their squeals, their SmartGuard system can detect when a piglet is in distress, causing a patch worn by the sow to vibrate so that she will stand up and release the piglet.
Biome Makers measures crop health and functional biodiversity by pairing DNA sequencing and intelligent computing. By discovering the micro-organisms that live in crops and the soil, the company hopes to reduce crop protection use, minimize disease impacts and help in the development of sustainable crop solutions.
Global Resonance is building a blockchain system to digitally share data in real-time across supply chains. According to their research, more than 30 per cent of product data is wrong with each error costing more than $60 to fix and this system will help companies be more accurate, responsive and transparent.
FarmCloud’s technology makes it easy to connect barn climate and feeding controllers from different manufacturers into a single platform. The system provides real-time access to all production areas, within a single farm site or multiple locations, making it easier for farmers to manage production.
Terra NutriTECH has developed an Internet of Things-based system that allows for precise feeding of additives like oils, acids, liquid minerals and nutritional supplements to livestock through drinking water. The technology automatically adjusts for variability in water intake as a result of temperature, humidity or diet, and provides a dashboard of reports for both farmers and suppliers.
InTouch is an online feed management system for dairy farmers. The live nutritional support service provides real-time feedback on diet performance.