A new Cowichan-based agricultural technology company is making a name for itself on the international stage.
The aptly named EIO Diagnostics has developed a new tool for early detection of udder infections in dairy animals, commonly known as mastitis.
The global dairy industry loses approximately $10 billion in undetected and untreated infections every year, mainly through loss of productivity, so being able to diagnose mastitis early is a big deal for dairy farmers.
Tamara Leigh, co-founder of the start-up company that began in July, 2017, said the first prototype tool was tested on a goat farm in the Valley last year, and the technology is now being recognized and experimented with in several farms in Canada and the U.S.
“Our technology combines advanced sensor imaging and machine learning to detect early indications of infection days before there any physical signs of infection in the udder or the milk,” Leigh said.
“Our technology is an affordable, reliable tool that integrates seamlessly into the way farmers run their milking parlours, and it scales from large, modern, commercial dairies to smallholder farms.”
Leigh said EIO Diagnostics is currently taking its technology into leading dairy barns in British Columbia, California and Texas to get the final “barn truth” on its product before moving into a commercial release.
“While our roots are still on Vancouver Island, we are working on bringing our technology to international markets, including Europe and Africa, in early 2019,” she said.
“The work that we have done through accelerator programs (for start-up companies), including Food-X, Yield Lab and TechStars, has laid a great foundation, and given us the opportunity to tell people about the Cowichan Valley, and how big ideas can come from smaller places.”
Damir Wallener, CEO of EIO Diagnostics and the other co-founder of the company, said it all began last year when a goat farmer and cheese maker in the Valley had a severe mastitis outbreak in his herd, and wanted to find a better tool to monitor infection.
Wallener, who has experience in all phases of product development, and has an extensive patent history in hardware and software development, said he found seeking a solution to detecting mastitis early an interesting challenge.
“I’m a technology guy who is always looking for something new like this,” he said.
“Farmers are very excited by the technology because it’s beneficial for them to have healthy animals as it increases productivity.”
Leigh said EIO Diagnostics is in a “good spot right now”.
“We expect that 2019 will be a big year for us, and we see a lot of expansion in our future,” she said.
“But we will always keep a footprint in the Valley. We have eight people currently on staff, but we expect to have more employees as we expand. There are other applications for this technology in the poultry and swine industries, but dairy is very important and we’re focusing on that right now.”