Opportunity to invest in the tiny chip set to revolutionise animal healthcare
The mother of invention is necessity, or in Dr Garnett Hall’s case – a cat scratch.
“I was taking a cat’s temperature with a rectal thermometer which it clearly didn’t enjoy and lashed out at me,” said the Fremantle-based veterinarian.
“I thought ‘there has to be a better way to do this’.
“That sparked the idea of taking an animal’s existing identity microchip and making it smarter by communicating temperature and other health indicators.
“I’ve been a vet for more than 15 years, and always had an interest in biotechnology, so inventing this device was really a mashup of all my interests.”
Engineers Zyrus and Ross Khambatta were working on Internet of Things (IoT) devices at the time, before Garnett convinced them to switch their focus to animals and co-found VetChip in 2019 together with Dilesh Wadia, Pendar Dalili and Garnett’s brother Maxwell.
Garnett said the human health revolution inspired by wearable technology was part of his inspiration.
“It was around the time Fitbits were becoming popular, but I could see that technology wasn’t going to be suitable for animals,” he said.
“Several companies have developed wearable health monitors for animals, such as ear-tags or collars, but animals either chew them off or they just get destroyed out in the elements.
“They also lack the ability to detect many important biological traits that an internal solution can.”
“VetChip will retail for around the same price as the wearable collars, and substantially cheaper than any device currently used for livestock health monitoring.”
Investors interested in this new technology are encouraged to enquire through the opportunity on the AgriFutures growAG. marketplace.
How it works
The VetChip microchip is implanted under the skin using a similar method to identity chips, and uses biosensors to continuously monitor an animal’s temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygenation levels, and activity levels.
Biometric data collected by the chip is then interpreted by AI software to determine an animal’s normal health status and detect abnormalities as they occur.
This information is all displayed on the associated phone app, allowing owners to monitor their animal’s health and receive medical alerts at the earliest opportunity.
VetChip has also developed an API link to existing health record technology, allowing vets to make more informed decisions based on an animal’s historical data.
Garnett said the chip gives owners peace of mind they are giving their animals the best quality of life.
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“It effectively gives these animals a voice, because they can’t tell you when they’re feeling unwell,” he said.
“It also functions as an identifier chip, so eventually we envision animal owners being given the choice of the standard microchip, or VetChip which does ID and health monitoring.”
From cats to cattle
VetChip is equally suitable for livestock like horses, cows, sheep and pigs as it is for domestic pets.
“The hardware is exactly the same, but the way the data is processed and interpreted can be customised depending on the species,” said Garnett.
“A farmer could see on the app that one of their cows has a slight fever and go and check it for mastitis or a uterine infection before it gets too serious, rather than having to rely on just observing the animal.
“As a vet, I hope someone who is worried their horse might have colic, could ring me in the middle of the night and I could just open up the animal’s health record and VetChip data to assess temperature, heart rate, and even if the horse has been throwing itself on the ground or not.
“Rather than having to come out to the property to determine this, I can instantly assess remotely whether the animal needs immediate hospitalisation, and direct the owner appropriately.
“This technology can change how animal management happens, and link with smart farm projects where monitoring the animals is often the biggest limitation.”
Opportunity to Chip in
After a successful seed round in 2021 in which the company raised $2 million, VetChip is now looking to raise $5 million to enhance their solution and meet the opportunity.
“We’ve got a big task ahead to further miniaturise the chip and refine the sensor algorithms to better detect disease, but the whole team is really excited about it,” said Garnett.
“Australia needs to invest in this sort of technology development if we’re really going to lead the world in smart agriculture.
“This is a new field, a new market that we are poised to be world leaders in, it’s just a matter of finding the investment to get us there.
“There’s just so much scope for this technology – whether it’s someone’s beloved family pet, a performance animal like a racehorse that needs to be at peak physical condition, or livestock, where economic benefit is directly tied to their health and longevity.”
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VetChip has also soft launched into the animal research market, offering a welfare-monitoring solution that is less invasive than previous methods and more cost-effective for researchers.
You can catch up with VetChip in Startup Alley at AgriFutures evokeAG. 2023, 21-22 February in Adelaide. To reach out in advance or subsequently, enquire through the opportunity on the AgriFutures growAG. marketplace.
If you’d like to speak with the AgriFutures growAG. concierge, we’ll be on the AgriFutures booth at evokeAG. 2023.
Explore, find and connect with a wealth of research projects and innovation opportunities from across Australia’s agrifood innovation system at growag.com. To list a research project, commercialisation opportunity or organisation, please visit growag.com/submit.