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13 June, 2019 - 13:34 By Tony Quested

Samsung beefs up global play by Cambridge AgriTech firm

Global technology giant Samsung has signed up to a landmark AgriTech collaboration with Cambridge startup Herdsy.

The alliance is harnessing optimum technology from both companies to enhance the health and welfare of beef cattle around the world and boost productivity for the global food chain.

The official deal follows a pitch Herdsy made to the Korean company in Seoul last year.

Herdsy founder and CEO Richard Hobson tells Business Weekly that the partners are set to introduce more innovative technology and create a whole new world of opportunity for farmers globally and populations requiring more and better quality beef.

Herdsy, based at Barclays’ Eagle Lab in Cambridge, says it is the first AgriTech company on the planet with which Samsung has agreed to partner.

“This is a huge achievement for a tiny firm from Cambridge to catch the eye of a global company like Samsung. Testament  that you are never too small to export,” says Hobson.

Samsung and Herdsy will soon be launching a new hand held tracking device to wow world markets.

Herdsy technology can be used to track and analyse cattle and is packed with machine learning and AI capability that can be deployed for animal welfare by farmers or conservationists. 

It provides financial tracking of costs and revenues to easily review and improve profitability; an RF tag placed round the neck of the animal  measures biomedical data such as heart rate, together with temperature, location, movement, muscle mass as well as activity levels;  data is automatically transferred into the cloud-based account in analyses the data and can either extrapolate across the herd or identify individual animals to monitor and track activity patterns as well as compare against industry and academic performance benchmarks for the breed.

Alerts, though the website, messaging or smartphone app, are generated in the event of atypical or abnormal behaviour that is destructive to the value of the animal.

Farmers can leverage the technology to optimise prime weights for their cattle and compare data to herds on similar farms in their area or the country as a whole.

Time-based data can be shared, on request, with local vets to achieve earlier intervention or avoid unnecessary on-site visits.

Google maps are integrated and geofencing capability helps protect against animals straying, escaping or being stolen; the vast majority of installations will not require wi-fi or cellular technology.

Herdsy is also just back from a South African expo where it received preliminary orders for 2,000 of its cattle tracking collars. It has been asked to build an anti-theft collar by Afrivet to distribute across Southern Africa and believes this product could be manufactured in the UK.

Ex-IBM man Hobson tends to stand out at international expos, wearing a bright yellow suit made in Holland by a former supplier to rock legend Prince and a felt hat made in Dallas. It has proved a key selling point for the company which has been bootstrapped by small amounts of cash thus far but which is now seeking around £1 million to cash in on many opportunities flying its way.

Beef cattle farmers around the world have been highly receptive to the Herdsy technology, not just in Africa but also in New Zealand and Canada. Hobson is utterly convinced that by harnessing Herdsy technology Africa in the next few years could feed the rest of the world – ironic as that may seem.

The company’s technology is already helping to address an enormous profitability imbalance between dairy and beef farmers; beef farmers have been the poor relations in the food chain but, as Hobson says, not everyone is vegan and beef farmers are starting to close the earnings and profitability gap by harnessing the technology to improve land and herd management.

Only four people at present, Herdsy will soon be doubling that headcount and looking to expand globally if it can raise a modest amount of growth capital. Investors have already pledged to pitch in crucial sums if Herdsy can boost its revenues in the next few months.

Hobson believes the company’s Cambridge pedigree will be crucial in helping to fulfil the potential of the business. “We have been enormously fortunate to have had support from the Enterprise Europe Network, St John’s Innovation Centre, Barclays and the Eagle Lab – we even won an award in China in 2017 thanks to the profile they helped us achieve globally.”

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