The agtech company has evolved from a college project to a groundbreaking company set to revolutionise animal testing. 

Micron Agritech, the Irish agricultural technology company which has set out to revolutionise animal health testing, has announced that it has raised €500,000 in investment funding through a seed round. The funding will be used to bring Micron Kit, Micron Agritech’s rapid on-site parasite detection test, to market.

Spin-out of TU Dublin

Participants in the latest round are leading animal health company Bimeda, agtech venture capital fund the Yield Lab Europe, and Irish state agency Enterprise Ireland. Micron Agritech was formed as a spin-out of Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and founded by a team with an average age of 24.

Micron Kit, the patent pending rapid parasite testing kit, presents an innovative solution to a problem which has evaded and increasingly affected the agricultural industry for years.

Globally, parasitic infection is the most common health issue facing grazing livestock. Moderate infections can be responsible for ill-thrift, weight loss and even death while some parasites are capable of stunting the growth of animals by up to 50%. Currently, to test for these parasites, samples are taken, shipped to a lab and after an average wait of three to five days, results are delivered

Medicate animals with anthelmintic drugs

The process is costly and time-consuming and for this reason, many farmers instead opt to routinely medicate their animals with anthelmintic drugs as a preventative measure without knowledge of whether they are required or not.

As a result, overuse and underuse of medication has led to a global resistance issue, rendering even the more modern medications useless in some circumstances.

Identifying this global challenge, Micron Agritech developed Micron Kit, an innovative solution offering an alternative to the preventative dosing of livestock, a practice set to be restricted in 2022 under new EU regulations.

The device inside Micron Kit will test for parasites in cattle, sheep and horses and provide on-site and rapid results delivered through an app, indicating to farmers or vets if they need to medicate animals. The results include the identification of parasites and their burden level.

Machine learning technology

The test is simple: the user collects a fecal sample, prepares it through a few steps and then inserts it into the analysis device. Using their phone and the testing app the sample is imaged and then processed through cutting-edge machine learning technology, which has been built from the ground up by Micron Agritech.

The device enables farmers to reduce spend on testing, medication and costs associated with parasites and resistance. Micron Kit will make early accurate detection and individual treatment both attainable and realistic in parasite testing.

CEO and co-founder of Micron Agritech, Daniel Izquierdo said: “To raise this funding has been a challenging but rewarding experience. To think Micron Agritech has grown from a college project to a company raising half a million euro in investment is truly breathtaking.

"Our aim now is to help alleviate some of the pressures currently facing the animal health sector, as levels of resistance increase globally and regulators push to reduce the use of medication, whilst improving farmer income by saving them time and money.

"We look forward to working with our new partners and investors on this opportunity as we bring this new method of testing and its cutting-edge technologies to the world.”

Alan Hobbs, manager of the high potential startup industrial and life sciences department at Enterprise Ireland, said: “The team at Micron Agritech are a fitting example of how an innovative solution when paired with real ambition and motivation can quickly evolve into a great business.

Commercial potential

"As finalists in last year’s Student Entrepreneur Awards and winner of the Research Emerging from Third-Level Award at the Innovation Arena Awards at the 2019 National Ploughing Championships, the team in Enterprise Ireland has had the opportunity to see its commercial potential first hand.

"We are particularly pleased to see a female founder in this team of young entrepreneurs and delighted to be a part of this round of investment. I wish the team every good luck with the next stages in its exciting venture.”

Micron Agritech’s advisory board includes ex-directors of Pfizer Animal Health Andrew Weatherley and Nigel Walshe, who are currently leading the running of clinical trials with farmers across Ireland.

(Main image L-R: Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, CEO and co-founder, Jose Lopez Escobar, product director and co-founder, Tara McElligott, creative director and co-founder and Sean Smith, marketing director and co-founder)