Stopping livestock disease in its tracks
Bioenterprise Canada helps Guelph start-up launch international expansion
By Lilian Schaer for Bioenterprise Canada
Innovative biosecurity management software developed in Ontario is now available to poultry farmers in the United Kingdom. Farm Health Guardian recently announced its new partnership with Livetec Systems, an innovative biosecurity and disease management company focused on helping farmers manage and mitigate livestock disease risks.
Farm Health Guardian is a digital biosecurity system that has been proven to help livestock and poultry farmers lower their cost of production by improving animal health and reducing disease risks. This smart biosecurity management system can enhance on-farm disease prevention with electronic check-ins, truck movement records, digitized logbooks, real-time disease risk maps, instant alerts, and messaging.
“The problem we are trying to solve is animal disease; Avian Influenza is currently a big example in poultry. On the swine side, there are many disease pressures that are endemic, but there is also the threat of African Swine Fever which has been expanding in Europe and Asia and is on the doorstep of North America in the Caribbean,” explains Farm Health Guardian CEO Rob Hannam.
“Disease is coming into the barn in different ways, and we bring digital technology to the game to reduce that risk,” he adds. “In the UK in particular, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is currently a big problem, so they are keen for tools that will help them reduce the spread and lower the risk.”
There are two main components to the Farm Health Guardian system.
The first is Farm Health Monitor, which is an animal health record-keeping and reporting system that provides real-time data through a centralized health record that can be shared between farmers, barn workers and veterinarians to enable early disease detection. The goal is to help farmers stop disease before it spreads through an entire barn, herd or flock.
“When you think of the role of a vet today, production veterinarians are spread thin with lots of kilometres between farms and more demands on their time, and this is one area that saves time,” Hannam says. “There are many digital systems inside a barn today and we’re trying to pull all of that information together – from ammonia levels and barn temperature to how much animals are drinking – into a single spot for better animal health decision-making.”
Launched in the fall of 2021, Farm Health Monitor is currently in the beta testing stage with the company looking to enroll additional poultry or hog farmers who are willing to participate in the next round of testing.
The other component of the system is Farm Health Protect, a biosecurity management system based on geofencing that creates a virtual perimeter around a farm for monitoring the movement of trucks and people on and off the property. Movement is logged automatically and confidentially, and a mapping module shows where trucks have been. Over half the swine barns in Manitoba are already using the system, according to Hannam.
“A key part of disease investigation is contact tracing, which used to take hours or days and can now be done in less than 10 minutes,” he says. “The important piece here is communications. Workers, service providers and farm managers can receive messages so that once an outbreak is identified, the people most at risk can be alerted so they can take precautions.”
The company has also just launched a pilot project with Sask Pork to trial truck movement recording technologies focused on rural areas at over 20 hog farms and businesses in the province.
An international expansion has been in the works for some time, but Bioenterprise Canada, Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, has played a key role in helping Farm Health Guardian achieve that goal more rapidly than originally planned.
That includes a grant from SmartGrowth, a business support program for food and agri-tech businesses administered by Bioenterprise that provides funding and mentorship support for scale-up and expansion projects.
“This was a huge benefit to help us expand our exports and get us into the UK market stronger and faster – and that’s so important when you’re responding to an urgent disease outbreak like Avian Influenza,” says Hannam, adding he finds SmartGrowth’s fast and simple administration to be both business and founder friendly.
Bioenterprise has also been helping Farm Health Guardian make valuable connections in the livestock industry, including into the United States, through its team of advisors and subject matter experts. According to Hannam, those would’ve been difficult to make on their own.
The company will be continuing to develop new technology and improve its software systems, as well as expanding its sales to other regions and groups of customers.
Farmers interested in the Farm Health Guardian system can request an initial consultation and demonstration of the system via farmhealthguardian.com.
As Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, Bioenterprise Canada brings more than 15 years of industry experience and a national and international network of research institutions, academia, mentors and experts, funders and investors, government, and industry partners to help small and medium-sized businesses in the agri-food sector nationwide connect, innovate, and grow.
Bioenterprise is currently accepting letters of intent for Round 4 of its SmartGrowth Program. Recipients receive non-repayable acceleration financing, as well as coaching and mentorship from the Bioenterprise Canada team. The program is supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).
For more information on SmartGrowth and how to apply for the next cohort, visit https://bioenterprise.ca/programming/bioenterprise-smartgrowth-program/ or contact Alexandra Burdett at email@example.com.