A powerful tool that streamlines dairy supply chain logistics has landed an Atlantic Canada start-up coveted spots in a couple of big-name agriculture technology accelerators.
Milk Moovement is the only Canadian company that is part of the current cohort of the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator in Minneapolis, and one of only two Canadian start-ups in the SVG Ventures/Thrive agrifood accelerator in Silicon Valley.
Why it matters: The mentorship, education, funding, and networking support offered by accelerators is critical in helping many start-up companies translate their innovations into commercially available products.
Milk Moovement’s roots go back to co-founder Jon King’s days with Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador, where he noticed a need for automation in dairy and milk transport logistics.
“If we automate all the processes around milk transportation and logistics, we can reduce human error, inefficiencies and paperwork,” explains CEO and Co-founder Robert Forsythe. “So, we developed and launched this system by working with Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador and 27 dairy farmers and we’ve since expanded into Prince Edward Island and a small co-operative in Wisconsin.”
According to Forsythe, Milk Moovement has been able to lower transportation costs by five per cent for its two Canadian clients, and in the U.S., he believes the potential cost reduction from improving transport efficiencies could be as high as 15 per cent.
The system electronically connects all players in the dairy supply chain, providing transportation and quality monitoring, production tracking, and producer payment services.
The milk truck driver logs the pickup on-farm using a handheld unit or smartphone and logs the drop-off when the milk is delivered. Milk sample test results and all relevant information around each pickup are uploaded to the system and available for viewing by registered users on Milk Moovement’s desktop and mobile dashboards.
It’s been a bit of a gamechanger for Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island (DFPEI), which started to implement the system for all its 157 producers beginning this past spring.
The first step, according to DFPEI’s Linda Bowley, was making lab results available digitally to producers. That was followed by adding handheld units for drivers to log milk collection and delivery and in early August, the online dashboard went live for producers.
“It took a bit of time to get everyone online, but they (producers) do like being able to get in and get their information. If a pickup is at 10 (a.m.), at 10:15 they can see where they’re at for the whole month – it’s quick and it’s in real time,” says Bowley.
Although rural internet in PEI can pose some challenges, she estimates between 90 and 95 per cent of producers use the online system and DFPEI is working with Milk Moovement on continuing to expand the system’s capabilities.
“For about 60 per cent of producers, the biggest plus is having it on their phone so they can get their lab results and production information anytime, anywhere,” she says, adding that the system has also been a big time saver administratively for DFPEI since so many processes are now automated.
Tech support has also been a bonus: a clickable cow icon makes a connection to Milk Moovement’s tech support team, which she says have been very helpful and quick to respond when issues come up or a user gets stuck.
Milk Moovement recently opened an office in Minneapolis-St. Paul, a growing agri-food innovation hub in the U.S. Midwest and home of the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator.
According to Forsythe, the company’s goal is to have 30 customers in the next 12 months. He sees the biggest growth potential with smaller dairy co-operatives in the U.S, where the industry is more fragmented, but credits the Canadian supply management environment with helping Milk Moovement get off the ground.
“It was actually that collaborative approach of supply management that was a great help in being able to develop, launch and innovate this program and software from the beginning,” he says.
Beyond expanding its customer dairy base, the company is also looking to take what it has learned from dairy and applying it to the feed industry in an effort to make feed logistics more efficient and streamlined.