Smartbell’s integrated sensors and software bring the expertise of an experienced herdsman to an automated dairy system. The early-stage company has made good progress since it was a finalist in the non-student category of the GROW agri-tech business plan competition in 2016; the UK’s only competition supporting new businesses in this area.
Smartbell works using an RFID (radio frequency ID) device that can easily be attached to an animal’s collar or ear – as with statutory RFID tags – offering a 24/7 animal health system that monitors feed, heat or cold stress, other behaviours as well as fertility and pregnancy.
Farm trials have shown Smartbell can generate revenues of over £40k for a herd of 300 cows.
Here, Smartbell co-founder Veena Adityan speaks to us about how the company has progressed, four years on from taking part in GROW.
Q&A with Smartbell co-founder, Veena Adityan
- How has the business progressed since the GROW agri-tech competition – what do you offer, has demand increased?
Smartbell offers precision solutions for animal health monitoring and management, delivering solutions for farmers and producers (aggregators).
Our beachhead product provides early disease detection and guided triage system to help farmers prevent diseases in young animals, ensuring better lifetime health and growth; it reduces the need for antibiotics and improves profits.
- How have you grown since those early days, have you received any additional funding?
Soon after GROW, we received GCGP Local Enterprise Partnership AGri-tech R&D grant support (now The Business Board of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority).
And, most recently, we have been awarded and are leading a £1M Innovate UK grant: Transforming Food Production.
- Can you share some examples of how/where your technology has been applied?
One area is in calf rearing, where there tends to be a high incidence of disease.
Early trials have shown our tech can help detect an outbreak two days before visual symptoms and thus prevents the spread and severity of the disease.
We are also working on several other applications, such as for lowland grazing sheep and affordable health monitoring solutions for adult cattle in emerging markets.
- What was the benefit to SmartBell of being involved in GROW?
GROW is very unique competition, with clear focus and structure. The business plan element really made us think through every aspect of our proposition early-on.
We found the mentor programme extremely beneficial. As a young company it is not easy to get access to an experienced mentor from a highly relevant background, who will spend quality time analysing and giving feedback – and this was very useful.
The pitch training and the platform provided by being on GROW has also been incredibly helpful in building credibility and networks.
Belinda Clarke, personally, and through Agri-Tech E, as Director, has been so supportive through all these years – that after many years, since taking part, we are still reaping the benefits of having been part of this platform.
Read more about Smartbell.
GROW Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition 2019/20
If you’re an innovative farmer or technologist with a great business concept, find out more about GROW and how to apply to be part of this year’s competition – deadline for registration is 28th February 2020.