Innovative veterinary medicines project secures venture capital funding

Date published: 30 July 2021

To assist in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance, NI farmers have been reducing antibiotic use on-farm.

DigiSpark funding allowed the SMART team to gather representatives from ‘farm to fork’ to discuss the value of accurate medicine use data to each section of the supply chain

Scientists from AFBI and Ulster University (UU) have joined forces to develop a system to make the process of recording medicine use on farm hassle-free, while providing the agri-food industry with valuable data. The application they have created has been awarded funding to assist further development to bring it to market.

The system, SeaMless Antibiotic ReporTing (SMART) is designed to capture animal and drug use data in real time. The team recently secured a place on the DigiSpark programme and were awarded £10k to conduct further market research to develop the concept, followed by a further £20k to progress the innovation, in a “Best Potential Spinout” award.

Lead researchers, Dr Steven Morrison and Dr Aimee Craig from AFBI, recently teamed up with Dr Patrick Dunlop and Dr Gennday Lubarsky from the School of Engineering at Ulster University, who brought their wealth of experience in human healthcare technology to the project.

Throughout the 8 week ‘market discovery’ phase, the SMART team engaged with a wide range of stakeholders across the agri-food industry to identify ways to increase the impact of the SMART tool.

The DigiSpark programme also offered Aimee and Patrick the chance to gain insights from other leading researchers from across the globe at the 5th International Conference on Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Animals

The highlight of the market discovery journey was the opportunity to host leading vets, farmers, processors, government and consumers at a ‘design sprint’ directly discussing pains, gains, opportunities and ideas for the SMART system.

SMART project logo
SMART project logo
At the end of the DigiSpark programme Aimee once again pitched to leading tech start-up investors, Techstart Ventures, Helix Hub and ECIT Institute. As a result the SMART team were delighted to be one of two teams awarded the ‘Best Potential Spinout’ award with a prize of £20k to progress their innovation. 

Dr Simon Doherty (Queen’s University Belfast) who joined the team in an advisory role commented "The funding will help to develop an innovative platform to capture data at the pen-side. Once you know what you are using and how, you can set appropriate targets to reduce, refine and replace these products as part of a sustainable livestock system."

The team are now setting their sights on securing further funding from Invest NI to field test their prototype before bringing it to market. Watch this space!

Notes to editors: 

The objectives of the STAMP project is to develop, evaluate and implement a veterinary medicine recording and benchmarking system at farm and individual animal level integrated with quality assurance. More information can be found via this link: (https://www.agrisearch.org/projects/cross-sectoral/606-stamp-strategic-use-of-antimicrobials-in-dairy-beef-and-lamb-production-rcf-05-2017).

AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA delivering research and development, diagnostic and analytical testing, emergency response capability and expert scientific advice for DAERA and other government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland, and further afield.

AFBI’s Vision is “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.

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