Agtech start-up Protag has raised $1m from investment firm Sprout to fast track the development of its smart ear tag sensors, which transmit crucial health and location data to dairy farmers within seconds.
Protag’s small internet-enabled device clips onto a cow’s ear, allowing farmers to continuously monitor the animal’s health, grazing and breeding habits. Machine learning is used to process data from the device’s temperature, movement, and location sensors, helping farmers map animal behavioural patterns and detect the early onset of illnesses in real-time.
Based in the small Waikato town of Te Aroha, Protag co-founder Tyrel Glass says the company’s small, lightweight device is 100 times more power-efficient than other GPS-based devices using bulkier battery packs.
“We see a future where every farmer has detailed information on the health and wellbeing of every animal,” says Tyrel who formed Protag with fellow engineering and Massey University PhD student Baden Parr in July last year.
“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.”
He says 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.
The newly raised funds will be used to accelerate the company’s product development and validation in preparation for large scale trials planned for later this year, with several expressions of interest generated from farmers in the Waikato and the South Island.
While the company has its immediate sights on the New Zealand market, where a farmer’s average dairy herd is 440 cows, Ireland and Brazil have been identified as future markets.
Protag’s founders credit the Sprout team’s extensive international agritech experience and connections for opening the company’s doors to future growth.
Sprout Investment Manager Warren Bebb says: “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. We are excited to back Tyrel and Baden as they strive to advance the health and profitability of the dairy industry in a sustainable way.”
Prior to their acceptance into the July 2021 cohort of the Sprout Accelerator, Protag’s founders were the winners of two global engineering competitions; receiving $US25,000 at the Keysight Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Challenge and winning the 2021 Microsoft Imagine Cup.
Sprout’s investment partners include US-based Finistere Ventures, Kiwi dairy giant Fonterra, and Israeli venture builder OurCrowd, with support from government agency Callaghan Innovation’s Technology Incubator Programme.
ProTag is helping dairy farmers improve animal welfare and pave the way for more sustainable farming through its smart, lightweight sensors that clip onto a cow’s ear, providing powerful insights that help detect the early onset of illness in real-time. See protag.co.nz.