Funds boost biotech trial

Wire­less health mon­i­tors for cows

South Waikato News - - OPINION -

Welling­ton an­gel in­vestor Mo­vac is pump­ing $2 mil­lion into Kahne, a biotech­nol­ogy com­pany tri­alling wire­less de­vices placed in­side dairy cows to pro­vide farm­ers with health and fer­til­ity data.

Founded by Gis­borne farmer Michael Eivers in 2002, Kahne was run on a shoe­string be­fore hir­ing former Amer­i­can in­vest­ment banker Su­sanne Clay as its chief ex­ec­u­tive last year.

Kahne has about 500 of its wire­less ru­men and vagi­nal sen­sors im­planted in dairy cows and is con­duct­ing field tri­als, with the tech­nol­ogy ex­pected to launch com­mer­cially in about six months.

Clay, who was pre­vi­ously chief busi­ness of­fi­cer at ASX-listed Liv­ing Cell Tech­nolo­gies, said Kahne’s prod­ucts were the first to of­fer farm­ers phys­i­o­log­i­cal rather than be­havioural ev­i­dence of breed­ing cy­cles.

The tech­nol­ogy aimed to im­prove the in­dus­try’s in-calf rate – the speed with which dairy cows are im­preg­nated for the fol­low­ing sea­son – which Dairy NZ says is un­ac­cept­ably low. The stom­ach de­vices, mean­while, could give farm­ers ear­lier signs on when a cow was be­com­ing sick, or nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion to as­sist in de­ter­min­ing sup­ple­men­tary feed re­quire­ments.

‘‘If you can be more ef­fi­cient with the amount of ex­tra feed that you’re pro­vid­ing, that means you’re get­ting more milk and health­ier an­i­mals,’’ Clay said

In a re­cent fund­ing round, Mo­vac contributed $1m, with an­other $400,000 coming from out­side in­vestors. An­other $1m will be pro­vided by Mo­vac, as­sum­ing Kahne reaches mile­stone agree­ments as­so­ci­ated with the first com­mer­cial or­ders of its prod­ucts.

Mark Stu­art, a part­ner in Mo­vac’s $42m early stage growth fund, said Clay had done an ex­cel­lent job re­fin­ing Kahne’s busi­ness model to make it at­trac­tive for in­vest­ment. While Mo­vac be­lieved Kahne’s prod­ucts had sub­stan­tial in­ter­na­tional po­ten­tial, New Zealand’s sub­stan­tial dairy in­dus­try meant it could get a re­turn from domestic sales alone.

‘‘Cer­tainly the busi­ness can pros­per, to the ex­tent that we’re in­ter­ested in it, on just get­ting early adapters and the cor­po­rates [cor­po­rate farm­ers]. With just that part of the mar­ket we think it’ll scale to tens of mil­lions of rev­enue from New Zealand,’’ Stu­art said.

Ul­ti­mately the com­pany would likely tar­get a United States launch, where the dairy in­dus­try was larger than New Zealand’s, Stu­art said.

Fairfax NZ NEW INI­TIA­TIVE: A new grad­u­ate school spe­cial­is­ing in dairy re­search and in­no­va­tion will be set up.

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