Friday, December 1, 2023

Halter funds path for accelerated development

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Capital raising will back programme to meet needs of dairy farmers.
Halter founder Craig Piggott says his priorities are more functions for New Zealand farmers.
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Smart cow collar company Halter has increased its capital by more than 200% to accelerate further development and concentrate on the local market of dairy farmers, company founder Craig Piggott says.

“Our No 1 priority is investing in our farmers. This money will go directly towards delivering a system that helps farmers run more productive and sustainable operations.”

The Series C fund raising of $85 million was led by United States venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners and included existing investors DCVC, Blackbird, Prometheus Ventures, Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck and Icehouse Ventures.

Two former rounds raised $7m and $32m in 2018 and 2021 respectively.

Beck was Piggott’s former employer in electronics engineering before Halter was launched seven years ago.

More than 100,000 cow collars were deployed in 2022, Piggott said, but he cited commercial sensitivity on further uptake numbers.

Halter leases collars to dairy farmers and makes variable monthly subscription charges according to location, herd size and the features farmers require.

According to farmers who are using them or have obtained quotations, the rentals are something over $100 a collar each year.

Piggott said Bessemer is one of the largest ethical venture capitalists in the US and was attracted to Halter by the sustainability aspects, which are transforming farming.

Now with 180 employees, Halter will continue to develop and incorporate new features into its product that assist farm management, recording, reporting and planning.

It helps farmers to be more precise with pasture management, thereby lessening the need for imported feed, and assists them in targeting nitrogen applications.

All data generated and transmitted by the cow collars to the smart phones and digital devices of farmers goes also to the company for recording and analysis, he said.

More data improves detection of heat and illness, for example.

Halter monitors data 24/7, ensuring that its collars are working properly and contributing to the great body of knowledge.

Halter employees, along with farm consultants, veterinarians and agricultural researchers, are analysing all information generated by the collars to add to the product functions and verify the livestock management improvements.

Leading farmers who are users are also feeding back their experiences, including the savings made.

“We are the technological platform for dairy farmers, saving them labour, time and money while improving pasture utilisation, reducing the carbon footprint, and improving animal health and reproductive performance,” Piggott said.

Virtual fencing replaces conventional fencing as cows learn to respond to sound and vibration signals and shift themselves around the farm.

In response to an online petition calling for a ban on “shock control” collars, Piggott said every farmer knows a happy cow is more productive and that new technologies and products need high animal welfare standards.

Halter has been reviewed and approved by AgResearch’s animal ethics committee and no third party or farmer user can control the frequency or strength of collar guidance signals.

Piggott said some elements of the Halter package have been seen in other countries and other products but not the whole platform, born out of his dairy farm upbringing and technical training.

“We are world leaders in dairy farming and there is no better place for Halter to be.

“Halter will concentrate on the domestic market first, then look to overseas and other livestock applications.”

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