New micro-learning platform for veterinarians wins pitch competition

Obi Veterinary Education helps veterinarians stay up-to-date without in-person learning

Co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of Obi Veterinary Education, Ryan Appleby, says the winnings from the Guelph LAIRR competition will help expand its offerings.

An online platform that makes continuing education quicker and easier for veterinarians won the 2021 University of Guelph Gryphon’s LAAIR pitch competition. 

Obi Veterinary Education has created an online community where subscribers can complete required continuing education credits in short, easily digestible blocks of information.

“The idea came from the challenges I faced in school during internships and even now, trying to complete continuing education. After a long day or week of work, it’s difficult to focus on a webinar that’s an hour long - and I found my best learning came when complex topics were distilled into shorter, manageable pieces,” said Co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer Ryan Appleby. 

Why it matters: Provincial and state governments in North America regulate veterinarians, requiring them to complete a certain number of continuing education hours every year. Traditionally, this is done through a combination of online lectures, self-directed learning, in-person labs or attending conferences. 

“We wanted to provide a new, better way to complete those requirements in a time-effective manner that also helps retain information better,” Appleby added. 

For farmers, Obi means it will be easier for their herd veterinarians to stay up to date on key topics in large animal medicine, which Appleby expects will translate into better animal health and production. 

As CVO, Appleby is in charge of developing the company’s educational offering, which includes consulting with veterinarians to determine topics of interest and then partnering with subject matter specialists to break those topics down into short segments. 

Obi’s clients pay for access to the content on the site, which meets the standards set by the Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE) of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). This means Obi can provide official certificates to participants who complete their micro-learning modules. 

The company launched in January and has more than 100 users registered to date. The majority are in Canada and the U.S., but Appleby noted they’ve also attracted international veterinarians from Germany and Brazil, and the goal is to make content available to as many people as possible. 

That’s where the $10,000 Gryphon’s LAAIR grand prize will help the company expand its offering. Obi will also receive business and mentorship support through the Research Innovation Office. 

“We’re incredibly honoured to have won this, and we are excited that the judges saw potential in our platform,” he said. “What I really want to do is build a community of veterinarians who can learn in a better way and cover a wide variety of topics across the spectrum of animal health that is easily accessible in a modern way.”

Judge Harry Gandi said Obi’s attention to detail put them at the top of this year’s six-team contestant cohort. 

“They did a great job putting together the details of their pitch but had also thought through the fundamentals, like how to run a pilot, how to scale a business model and content strategy and how different stakeholders fit into this paradigm,” Gandhi said. 

The People’s Choice Award went to Digitrack Systems, which uses Artificial Intelligence-based innovation to connect manufacturers, distributors, and retailers in the agri-food industry and give consumers access to food recall and food safety information. 

Launched in 2014, the Gryphon’s LAAIR funding program helps bring research with roots at the University of Guelph to commercialization. It’s an initiative of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, formerly the University of Guelph - Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) partnership. 

“This is one of the signature events at University of Guelph that supports researchers in the translation of academic insights into meaningful impacts,” said University of Guelph president Charlotte Yates in remarks during the event. “Over 75 grants with a value of more than $4 million have helped assess potential and minimize risk, and start-up businesses receive intensive coaching and mentorship through the Research Innovation Office.” 

Past Gryphon’s LAAIR support recipients include Escarpment Labs, which developed Ontario’s first-ever liquid brewer’s yeast, and Mirexus Inc., which uses plant glycogen particles from sweet corn in cosmetics and personal care products.

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