Imagine if you could detect disease in ginger, fraud in Manuka honey and adulteration of tea tree oil using a smartphone?
From Armidale in NSW’s northern tablelands, this innovative female-founded agtech startup is putting power and profits into the hands of farmers via their smartphones.
The first product founder and CEO Danielle Morton launched is Zondii wool, handheld scanning technology that can be used as easily in the sale yards and shearing shed to detect the micron size (fibre thickness) of wool to aid farmers with stock decisions for better genetics and breeding.
Morton plans to turn Zondii’s globally patented multispectral technology into the world’s first smartphone verification tool for food and fibre. Farmers and producers will be able to instantly verify and validate the authenticity of their produce just through using the selfie camera of their phones.
The purpose is to solve the problem of food fraud, which is costing the Australian industry an estimated $2-$3 billion in lost revenue and has a major impact on consumer confidence, health and safety.
“I really want to share with the world how much the produce that we produce here in Australia actually has value that we can’t see,” Morton told Startup Daily at the awards.
“So being able to scan food and see what’s going on with that food for all of our health and wellbeing, as well as fibre, and giving that a spotlight in Australia and New Zealand and globally, is pretty incredible.”
Zondii’s tech picks up markers like whether a product is organic and authentic, and can even identify regional fingerprints for provenance and traceability.
They’ve also developed a wool fibre measurement solution to speed up classification and help farmers unlock greater profits from their wool. The wool micron handheld device instantly verifies and validates fibre using a smartphone, saving weeks of extra work and providing scientifically accurate data for better decision-making.
When asked why she thought Zondii impressed the awards’ judging panel of industry leaders, Morton put it down to being on the ground with farmers.
“It’s just getting behind the farmers and giving them what they need,” Morton said.
“It’s asking what it is that will make their lives easier and benefit them.”
Since launching in January 2022, the business has doubled its revenue over the past 12 months, negotiating deals with industry partners in both Australia and New Zealand. They’re currently finalising R&D projects and submitting reports to funding agencies in areas such as food fraud in honey and adulteration in tea tree oil.
To get there, Zondii has raised $890,000 in equity funding over the past financial year, enabling Morton to grow her workforce to three full-time employees and 15 contractors.
While some of her staff are remote, Morton, team members and research interns work from the NOVA Smart Region Incubator and University of New England laboratories.
For the wool micron development, you couldn’t find a better location in New England, which produces some of the world’s leading ultra-fine Merino wool for markets like China and Italy.
This is where spending time with woolgrowers comes in handy. Morton told us about a recent farm visit to assist with shearing and gathering information on how the wool micron tech can be used. When classing the wool, her team discovered issues around the lack of WiFi in the shed, how tech could get in the way of operations, and the speeds at which fleeces need to be classed.
The buzz in the wool world is anything but sheepish. Zondii’s wool micron already has more than 235 farms and now there are nearly two million sheep on wool waitlist for the technology when it becomes available.
The demand for a 100% natural, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable fibre makes wool a much stronger prospect than synthetic textiles and fibres, opening up an opportunity for Australian farmers to generate greater revenue while embracing net-zero.
Other finalists for the Best Regional Startup award were:
IIF – Invest Inya Farmer. From Victoria’s High Country, IIF is a fintech app that gives consumers an easy way to invest in farmers who prioritise sustainable practices.
Hydrogen at Home. Based on NSW’s Central Coast, Hydrogen at Home has developed mobile and portable green hydrogen energy storage systems to hasten the transition to net-zero.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily, with the support of Investment NSW.