Giant strides for nine agri-innovators

One of the nine Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants last week in Kentucky, USA, was Terra NutriTech, founded by Tom and Padraig Hennessy.

Two Irish companies made giant strides towards success on the global market, at last week’s Pearse Lyons Accelerator showcase during ONE19, the 35th annual Alltech Ideas Conference.

The KEENAN System team presented their intouch-go automatic ration recommendation innovation, and Terra NutriTech presented their precision liquid automated nutrition system.

However, their presentations on the ONE19 stage in Lexington, Kentucky, USA, and throughout the three-day conference, to about 3,500 conference delegates, along with seven other start-up companies, were only part of the breakthrough for the nine Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants.

The Accelerator is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for “disruptive” ag-tech startups with proven technology that is ready to market.

The participants also benefit from a mentorship programme, and an intensive “business boot camp” involving product development discussions, market insights, financial guidance, business development strategies, and presentation skills from industry professionals, before they showcase their businesses at the Alltech Ideas Conference to delegates from about 70 countries.

According to Alltech, participants since 2016 have established 35 routes to market, raised hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, and been ranked by CB Insights among the top ag-tech startups.

Keenan System staff at last week’s ONE19 35th annual Alltech Ideas Conference in Kentucky, USA, from left, James Brough, Ireland and UK Sales Manager; Michael French, Area Manager, Keenan UK; and Mark Moloney , InTouch Nutrition. At ONE19, the company’s intouch-go automatic ration recommendation system was one of the nine Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants.
Keenan System staff at last week’s ONE19 35th annual Alltech Ideas Conference in Kentucky, USA, from left, James Brough, Ireland and UK Sales Manager; Michael French, Area Manager, Keenan UK; and Mark Moloney , InTouch Nutrition. At ONE19, the company’s intouch-go automatic ration recommendation system was one of the nine Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants.

SwineTech

First on the ONE19 stage last week was a young company from the US which has made remarkable strides in just a few years.

SwineTech now justifiably claims to be the world’s leader in using artificial intelligence to eliminate sow and piglet deaths, because they work with farmers who produce an impressive 87% of the USA’s pork output.

What Matthew Rooda and his company came up with is the world’s leading solution for reducing piglet crushing and pre-weaning mortality, and which also monitors sow health.

It’s a huge breakthrough, because as Matthew Rooda told the ONE19 audience, 160 million piglets are crushed by sows per year, which means a loss of $3bn of pork output.

“We protect more than one million pigs from being killed by the sow,” he said.

SwineTech has won a number of awards already in the US and Europe for their simple but effective Smartguard acoustic monitor attached to the sow, which alerts the sow to stand up if a piglet squeals when she lies on it. In trials, it reduced piglet mortality reduction in the first three days by 66%.

Each Smartguard monitors two farrowing crates.

The equipment is designed to be durable to stand the test of time.

Along with preventing crushing, it monitors the sow’s temperature and behaviour, and alerts the farmer if all is not well.

It is placed between two farrowing crates, and include two power plugs for heat lamps.

The acoustic monitor is attached to the sow’s flank, and uses a vibration and chiropractic impulse to prevent her from crushing a piglet. It is activated by a microphone which picks up the piglet’s squeal and passes on the “get-up” impulse to the sow.

InTouch

The intouch-go automatic ration recommendation was presented by marketing manager Martin Minchin not only to the ONE19 audience last week, but also to 6,000 Alltech employees, because InTouch is part of Alltech’s Keenan mixer wagon on-farm nutrition support service.

Martin Minchin told the ONE19 audience that dairying is full of uncertainties and variables like the weather, the milk price, and cow health.

Therefore milk yield can be expected to vary significantly.

Adjusting the cow’s diet is a critical step to get milk yield back on course. But it typically takes 14 days to gather all the data needed for a new ration recommendation.

The intouch-go open source digital platform can do that as quickly as in five minutes, and send the recommendation to the farmer’s smartphone, or to the mixer wagon for diet preparation.

It is a separate service from the well-known InTouch which uses human intervention in the form of a team of nutritionists live reviewing and supporting the Keenan mixer wagon service to ensure animals get the diet they need.

Martin Minchin said InTouch is partnering with many companies on the development of intouch-go, including Glanbia.

It uses real-time analysis of milk yield and feed data, which could come from various sources such as a modern milking machine or robot, or cow monitoring systems.

It includes feed costs in its recommendations, and issues overfeeding alerts if they arise.

Terra NutriTech

Adding precise feeding supplements to water systems on farms, thus reducing labour and improving returns, is at the heart of the Terra NutriTech systems, already well known in Ireland after winning awards such as the 2018 National Enterprise Award.

Animals can receive the precise necessary daily dose of any liquid supplement, after the farmer sets herd or flock numbers and dosage rates on the system controller, using a touch screen and app. Up to six different supplements can be dispensed at any one time, and changed as required with the touch of a button.

Tom and Padraig Hennessy founded the company in 2012. It is based at Moone, Co Kildare. Terra NutriTech recently announced a €2 million research and development investment, and a worldwide launch for use in various llvestock sectors.

Biome Markers Inc

All-in-one genetic soil assessment is the “disruptive” technology offered by Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants Biome Markers Inc of Sacramento, California.

The company has benefited from EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation grants.

Just three spoonfuls of soil is needed for an easy-to-understand report with all the information needed to make the best farming decisions.

Examples of how this BeCrop technology helped farmers internationally include a Californian almond farmer seeking to identify a fungal problem killing his trees, and instead finding it was a nematode problem; and one of the largest sugar producers achieving a yield increase on their sugar cane farm after the soil analysis.

But BeCrop is designed for any crop. It predicts disease threats prior to planting, allowing for targeted prevention methods with less reliance on chemical treatments, for more sustainable farming.

Next week in Farming: the other Pearse Lyons Accelerator participants include a company which claims to produce the finest meats by using state-of-the-art cell culture techniques.

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