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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 2 Nov 2018

Two potential ag tech start-ups from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) have progressed to the finals of a Shark Tank-style competition.

TIA’s Lambulance and Easy Drench are the first ever Tasmanian entrants in the Australian eChallenge, an entrepreneurship program organised by the University of Adelaide. The eChallenge helps develop products from concept to market, awarding top competitors up to $10,000 to execute their vision.

The fledgling Tasmanian start-ups could help the Australian wool industry save time, money and lives.

The Lambulance is a drone with infrared technology that detects when a ewe or lamb is in trouble and sends an alert to farmers. TIA researcher and Lambulance team member Andrew Bailey said improved monitoring and reduced response times could drastically lower mortality rates.

“Around 80 percent of lamb mortalities occur within 48 hours of birth. The Lambulance could potentially prevent two-thirds of these deaths with early detection,” Mr Bailey said.

TIA’s other entrant—Easy Drench—would provide a cost-effective, individualised method to prevent and treat parasites in sheep.  

“Farmers currently figure out their drenching strategy based on flock averages and all sheep are drenched, whether or not they have internal parasites,” said TIA lecturer and Easy Drench team member Katrina Durham.

“Easy Drench is a tiny remote sensing device that detects when sheep have parasites and drenches them instantaneously as they graze.”

The cost of prevention and treatment of internal parasites in sheep, and the associated production losses, add up to over $430 million per year. Easy Drench has the potential to save the sheep and wool industry millions of dollars, and the technology could be adapted in the future to use on cattle.

Australian eChallenge Coordinator Julia Miller said that over 70 teams from South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania pitched diverse ideas this year across five categories, including wool and medical innovation and climate response.

“Each year we are inspired and intrigued by the variety of ingenious ideas, some of which are developed into thriving businesses.”

Easy Drench and the Lambulance will join three other wool innovation finalists in pitching their ideas to a panel of judges including representatives from industry group Australian Wool Innovation at the eChallenge finals in Adelaide on 14 November. Teams are judged on the concept and viability of their ideas.

The winning wool innovation team will receive $10,000 to help further their start-up. Second and third place winners receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. All winners are offered additional mentoring and may apply for access to the University of Adelaide’s start-up incubator ThincLab.

Winners will be announced at the Australian eChallenge awards dinner on 15 November at the Adelaide Oval.

Picture: TIA's Easy Drench team Katrina Durham (ag systems lecturer), Dylan Bellchambers (agribusiness student) and Janine Chang Fung Martel (PhD candidate).

This article appeared in Tasmanian Country on 2 November 2018.