Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Aiming to revolutionise mastitis detection

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Recognising mastitis as one of the primary challenges faced by farmers, Liam Kampshof put on his thinking cap, eager to find innovative solutions.
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By Sam Jaquiery

Stranded in a London apartment mid-pandemic, Liam Kampshof found himself yearning for the wide-open spaces of his parents’ farm in the Bay of Plenty back in New Zealand. 

He and his girlfriend decided it was time for a change. They packed their bags, secured a quarantine spot, and embarked on a journey towards the freedom of those sprawling pastures.

With ample space and time for reflection, Liam began contemplating how to leverage his expertise and career background to support the dairy industry. Recognising mastitis as one of the primary challenges faced by farmers, he put on his thinking cap, eager to find innovative solutions.

“It was an unanticipated career break, and I’d always wanted to start my own business, so this was the perfect opportunity,” Kampshof says.

“Here I was, back on the farm, surrounded by a herd of cows, and I had industry experience in disease detection and diagnostics so I started wondering how to combine these elements into a business venture.”

Kampshof had previously studied biomedical engineering at Auckland University and had spent four and a half years working in the human medical field in London, developing tools for detecting cancer and septicemia.

He understood that mastitis was the most significant disease affecting farmers, prompting him to investigate how it was currently detected and diagnosed.

“I was quite surprised to discover how outdated mastitis detection methods were for most farmers.

“They were relying on manual techniques, and the available technologies were on the expensive side. I knew there had to be a way to make automation more accessible.”

He embarked on his journey into product development, leading to the establishment of Bovonic and the creation of QuadSense. 

His goal was to develop a user-friendly, affordable solution that dairy farmers could easily install and use.

“QuadSense incorporates a milking sensor in each cup, allowing it to test each quarter individually rather than the entire cluster. 

“It’s a small sensor that farmers can install themselves by simply opening the cup and inserting the sensor and it runs on AA batteries, eliminating the need for an electrician.”

The sensors measure the conductivity of the milk, as most milk meters do. 

“Our innovation is that we are measuring and comparing quarter conductivity.”

He started working on the project in his garage and recognised that Fieldays would be the ideal platform to showcase his innovation. He had initially aimed for the following year, but a friend encouraged him to find a way to participate in the 2021 event, which was only a week away.

“We had 150 farmers sign up, expressing their interest in testing the product, which was incredible.

“It truly validated that I was on the right track.”

With both technical and market validation in hand, Liam was ready to accelerate his efforts. He engaged electrical and design engineers and began raising funds. 

He joined the Sprout Agritech accelerator programme and, in November 2021, secured investment from a venture capital firm, Pacific Channel, which recognised the potential of his concept.

Some interested farmers even paid a deposit to be among the first to obtain the product when it is released.

“On average, mastitis costs a farmer between $60,000 and $80,000 per year and even during a period of low payout, mastitis remains a significant problem and source of stress. There’s a lot to gain from detecting mastitis faster,” Kampshof says.

He and his team have partnered with an Auckland-based manufacturer to produce the product entirely in NZ. Once they launch domestically, they plan to expand into international markets.

“Mastitis is an even more significant issue overseas, making our product even more valuable to international farmers.”

Back on the farm, Kampshof’s father, who had been a sharemilker until Liam was 13, then transitioned to leasing a farm, continues to play a vital role in supporting Kampshof’s venture. His experience and guidance have been instrumental in shaping his understanding of both farming and business.

“It’s all about networks,” Kampshof emphasizes.

“There are so many knowledgeable, talented people out there, you just need to find them and the contacts you make can be incredibly valuable.”

He is very thankful to the dairying community around Te Aroha, who have been very accommodating and patient, allowing the Bovonic team to test prototypes and refine the concept.

“The support has been amazing, they’ve let us come into their sheds and test fairly frustrating prototypes and have been great at giving us feedback and are always happy to help out. We are very fortunate.”

QuadSense is currently preparing for its launch and eventual global expansion – ready to revolutionise mastitis detection.

This article first appeared in the October edition of our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.

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