New Zealand agritech startup Protag has raised NZ$1 million for its smart ear tag sensors for the dairy industry.
Investment firm Sprout led the round, with support from US-based Finistere Ventures, Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra, and Israeli venture builder OurCrowd, with support from NZ government agency Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Programme.
The cash will fast track development of Protag’s Internet-of-Things-enabled device, which clips onto a cow’s ear.
The tag allows farmers to continuously monitor the animal’s health, location, grazing and breeding habits.
Machine learning processes the data collected from the device’s temperature, movement, and location sensors, so farmers can map animal behavioural patterns and detect the early onset of illnesses in real-time.
Large scale trials of the tag are planned for later this year, with several expressions of interest generated from farmers in the Waikato region, where Protag is based, and the South Island.
Protag co-founder Tyrel Glass says the company’s small, lightweight device is 100 times more power-efficient than other GPS-based devices.
He founded Protag with fellow engineering and Massey University PhD student Baden Parr in July last year.
“We see a future where every farmer has detailed information on the health and wellbeing of every animal,” Tyrel said.
“The power of remote sensing in animal health is huge. And Protag is the gateway into this data, providing advanced analytics for each animal that can map the whole story of the cow, and at an accessible price point for all farmers.”
Tyrel said early detection of mastitis, lameness (leg and foot pain), and reproduction issues – the top ailments facing dairy cattle – paves the way for more sustainable farming and improves animal welfare.
While the company’s immediate sights on the New Zealand market, where the average dairy herd is 440 cows, Ireland and Brazil have been identified as future markets, where typical herd sizes are closer to 70-80 cattle.
Sprout and the other co-investors are looking to back 30 Kiwi companies over the next six years with NZ$1 million investments.
Sprout Investment Manager Warren Bebb said he was excited to back the duo as they strive to advance the health and profitability of the dairy industry in a sustainable way.
“The Protag team embodies so much of what we look for in entrepreneurs: a big vision coupled with engineering smarts that use a very clever combination of the latest remote sensing technologies to bring crucial insights to dairy farmers,” he said.
Protag joined the Sprout Accelerator program in July 2021 and has won two global engineering competitions; receiving $US25,000 at the Keysight IoT Innovation Challenge and the 2021 Microsoft Imagine Cup.