2016 New Zealand Innovation Awards Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment: Farmshed Labs

The winner of the Innovation in Agribusiness & Environment is... Farmshed Labs!

Anyone who has lived in Aotearoa for any length of time can attest to how important the dairy and cattle industries are to the New Zealand economy, especially out in the regions. Likewise, anyone who has worked with cows on a farm can explain the tricky art of knowing when to breed a cow to a bull, and how often such attempts are unsuccessful. But guess what? Breeding cows isn’t art – it’s science. And there’s some wearable tech that’s making that science easier than ever before.

Enter Flashmate.

Flashmate is a heat detection device that lets farmers know when their female cows are in heat and available for breeding. The device is attached to a cow on their right flank just below the hip bone, and when they are in heat, it flashes red for about 26 hours, giving farmers time to get things happening on the calving front.

An intelligent microchip embedded inside the device powers Flashmate. The technology makes farming easier and more productive because farmers no longer have to rely on guesswork in knowing when to breed their cows, allowing them to focus on other tasks. It is completely waterproof and recyclable, and includes spray glue so farmers can quickly put them on multiple cows.

Flashmate is the brainchild of Fraser Smith and Matt Yallop, who are partners in Farmshed Labs and have worked together since 2004. In 2012, Yallop visited Iceland, where he saw how technology was influencing the development of the island nation’s fishing. Yallop was inspired to work with Smith to develop tech that would help shape the future of New Zealand’s second-largest industry. The background the two both had in agribusiness and commercialisation of intellectual property helped them get things off the ground, and, in 2015, Flashmate was trialled at several farms throughout New Zealand.

Flashmate is a potential game-changer for dairy farmers or anyone who raises cattle. DairyNZ has calculated that improving the ability of farmers to breed their cows could lead to a $300 million annual increase in revenue for the industry – or about $28,000 for the average farmer with a herd of 400 cows.

Sounds like something consumers would be absolutely bullish on.

EVALUATOR'S COMMENTS:

Fantastic to see such rapid growth following a short development period. This is a game changing technology making farming easier and more productive.

This story first ran in Idealog 63.