Over the next few months we will introduce you to some of the agritech startups we work with. Today we are introducing CalfSMART, a Palmerston North based startup working hard to deliver the future of animal health analytics.
CalfSMART is an automated, cloud-based calf rearing system designed for dairy farmers who want to make data based decisions on how to feed their calves for optimal health and growth. The product is a combination of a automated feeding hardware driven by a cloud enabled software platform. There are an estimated 4.9 million dairy cows in New Zealand, those cows generate around 1.4 million calves annually. Calf rearing is becoming an important practice that is being increasingly recognised to have a significant effect on the lifetime milk production of a cow. The techniques used in calf rearing are being shown to have a significant impact on the amount of milk a calf can produce in its first lactation and for its entire lifetime. The CalfSMART system allows each calves rearing approach to be customised to the environment, breeding, feed type and weaning goals.
Founder and CEO Ben Neal founded CalfSMART after returning from working in Europe. Ben gained a BEng from Massey University in New Zealand, a leading international university in agriculture. Upon his return from Europe Ben was spending some time on the family farm rearing calves when he had his 'ah ha' moment on the lack of technology being used to optimise calf rearing. He then set about developing a product with a close friend Greg.
Ben approached us to assist with product development. When we first saw Ben we identified the need for him to complete some early research and development so we assisted him to gain a Getting Started R&D grant from Callaghan Innovation. After a successful R&D project, Ben completed his prototype and working with BCC decided to raise his first round of seed investment. BCC worked closely with Ben over five months to do the following:
- Validate the opportunity with the farming community
- Define and build an intellectual property strategy
- Build an advisory board to assist in strategic decision making
- Develop an execution plan to support capital raising
- Raise a seed investment round from Angel investors
CalfSMART's board is working closely with Ben. Larry Ellison, a successful entrepreneur who grew and sold New Zealand's largest independent rural fuel distribution company, and Alan Cockrell former CEO of Higgins group, one of New Zealand's largest infrastructure companies are providing valuable board support. We continue to play a support role to the board and Ben.
CalfSMART is now in full swing and Ben has built a team of highly skilled software and hardware engineers. Ben has a number of customers up and running with the CalfSMART product and is working closely with them to ensure they become great case studies for the benefits the system offers.