On farm mastitis test takes out Fieldays Innovation Den
It's the take home test that could save the dairy industry millions of dollars, and that's why it won the Mystery Creek Fieldays Innovation Den most viable business award.
Check-up, an on-farm diagnostic kit that lets farmers determine what bacterial infections have hit a cow, took out top prize at the competition this year, beating out eight other ideas to win its inventors the $15,000 awards package. That was after entrepreneurs Natasha Maguire and Leon Spurrell decided to enter the competition for some exposure.
"We didn't expect to win it," says Maguire.
The pair came up with the idea when they realised there was no accurate way to quickly find out what bacteria was causing mastitis in a cow. That made it difficult to target treatment, costing the country million of dollars in ineffective cures each year.
However, they only realised they were onto something special when they went to a matitis conference and noticed there were no solutions being developed for the problem.
"Then we got excited," says Maguire.
According to DairyNZ statistics, Maguire says mastitis costs the average dairy farmer $54,500 annually, a cost to the nation of $280 million.
"It's like a silent tax," she says.
To make matters worse "the treatments are very limited in their success which leads to a lot of frustration on the part of dairy farmers".
That's where Check-up comes in. The high-tech petri dish, divided into four sections, tests for multiple strains of bacteria from one milk sample. Farmers can tell what the bacterial infection is depending on what grows where - including whether an infection is treatable or not.
It's also highly accurate, something Maguire and Spurrell took special care to ensure.
But it was the potential for the technology to go global that Spurrell believes inspired the judges.
"There is a massive opportunity for investors, massive benefits to the economies of any country [that uses Check-up], and especially for the farmers. The benefit globally is unbelievable."
Head judge Craig Stephen says the idea caught the attention of judges because it offered an easy solution to a well-known problem.
"The fact they have developed a relatively inexpensive way of monitoring testing and then determining the best way to treat, that a farmer can do on farm and be in control of that process was pretty exciting for us."
He says the standard of the rest of the pitches was high, as "each of the contestants had approached it from a customer perspective, they had identified a problem and then they had endeavoured to solve the problem".
"In each instance they had solved the problem in my mind," he says.
The Best Pitch aware was won by Carry-mate, an electric-fence carrying system, and the Most Innovative award by Pastoral Robotics, a urine detection and spray system.
The judges were Dr Emma Blott, the general manager for science and technology at Fonterra, Rob Heebink, the research and development executive at Gallagher, Craig Stephen, the chief investment officer at Tainui and Nicola Buisson, the head of commercial development at Vodafone.