New Zealand-based Techion Group received $400,000 Euro (about $536,000 USD) on Monday from UK supermarket Sainsbury’s to participate in a cutting-edge project. Techion has technology that allows farmers to receive feedback in the field through cloud-based technology, helping farmers detect parasites and improve the health of sheep and other livestock.
Sainsbury’s interest in the project comes from wanting to roll out the technology in its Producer Group. The program is part of an initiative to support sustainable farming and improve animal welfare. Sainsbury’s believes that frequent testing will allow farmers to use more targeted animal health strategies and anthelmintics. The funding will support implementing Techion’s FECPAKG2 system in NZ and the UK.
Techion previously received funding in 2013 from New Zealand’s Angel Networks Enterprise Angels and the Central North Island Group. The NZ government also has a stake in Techion.
The system has already proven effective in the EU. In the three year EU Parasol Project the original version of Techion’s technology helped 74 percent of the farmers in the program reduce the number of treatments while not impacting animal performance.
According to stuff.co.nz the funding will pay for half of the hardware cost for famers and half of Techion’s monthly subscription. UK farmers will also receive this equipment; Techion plans to hire technicians in the UK to analyze samples.
The technology was originally designed for testing sheep and goats but can also be used for cattle and horses to provide quick FEC information on the farm.
“How well livestock perform is heavily impacted by parasites – they’re the largest influencing
factor on animal performance, after nutrition,” Techion founder Greg Mirams said. “The problem of increasing drug resistance by parasites to the drenches (medications) designed to kill them means we have to be smarter on how and when we use them – so it’s important for farmers to make use of new technologies to make better decisions.”
Techion technology reduces the time from testing to results, cutting the time down to about 90 minutes. FECPAKG2 technology counts the eggs in a fecal sample to help farmers know when to drench (medicate). Samples are collected then FECPAKG2 is used to take a micro digital photo of the eggs which is then uploaded to a cloud system. Cloud-based technology will allow this service to be available to farmers around the world.
Companies in general are increasing cloud adoption despite concerns for security and privacy. Farmers are no exception – they are starting to use the cloud in creative ways to help production and reduce costs. An Australian peanut grower uses mapping to predict outbreaks in the crop and farmers technology to analyze soil and reduce water use. Cloud-based systems report in real-time and allow users to submit and receive data from the field. As more farms use cloud computing technology, more innovation in the area is likely to occur.
The newer FECPAKG2 should achieve even better results than the original model that didn’t include the digital camera. New technology has removed the challenges of sending samples to a lab. Researchers have found the system to be very repeatable and effective in real-world application with farmers.
“Testing the old way meant there was too much human error and it was taking too long. We’re using smart technology much more these days. Techion’s system is user friendly and puts accurate information at our fingertips so we can make a decision on the day whether we need to drench or not,” New Zealand farmer Tony Plunkett said.
Like many treatments for so-called superbugs in humans, antibiotic resistance is a global problem with livestock.
“[It's] part of the rationale behind Sainsbury’s investment. They are really worried about the sustainability of our lamb supply,” Mirams told stuff.co.nz. FecPakG2 takes guessing how much medication is required, reducing infection time and the need to give animals a higher dose than needed. Animal health is a big expense for farmers so reducing the amount of medication required helps their bottom line.