Irish start-up Micron Agritech raises €500,000 in seed funding

10 Dec 2020

From left: Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, Jose Lopez Escobar, Tara McElligott and Sean Smith of Micron Agritech. Image: Conor Mulhern

TU Dublin spin-out Micron Agritech has developed a parasite testing kit for animals that delivers on-site testing and rapid results.

Micron Agritech, an agricultural technology company based in Dublin, has raised €500,000 in seed funding.

The start-up, which is a spin-out of TU Dublin, was founded in 2019 by Tara McElligott, Sean Smith, Jose Lopez Escobar and Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, and aims to change animal health testing.

Participants in the funding round included animal health company Bimeda, agritech venture capital fund The Yield Lab Europe and Enterprise Ireland. The funding will be used to bring the company’s rapid on-site parasite detection test to market.

Parasites are a major cause of disease and production loss in livestock, frequently causing significant economic loss and impacting animal welfare. The current testing process for parasites involves taking samples, sending them to a lab and waiting for results, which can take three to five days.

According to Micron Agritech, the costly and time-consuming process can lead to some farmers opting to routinely medicate their animals with anthelmintic drugs as a preventative measure. However, the European Parliament approved legislation in 2018 to ban the prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming, which will come into force in 2022.

In response to the challenge facing farmers, the Micron Agritech team developed the Micron Kit, which contains a device that will test for parasites in cattle, sheep and horses, and provide on-site and rapid results delivered through an app.

Once a faecal sample is prepared and inserted into the device, the app uses machine learning technology to image and process the sample. According to the start-up, the results will also include the identification of parasites and their burden level.

Micron Agritech’s advisory board includes ex-directors of Pfizer Animal Health, Andrew Weatherley and Nigel Walshe, who are currently leading the running of clinical trials with farmers across Ireland.

In 2019, Micron Agritech won the Local Enterprise Office ICT Award at the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards. The start-up also won the Research Emerging from Third-Level Award at the Innovation Arena Awards at the 2019 National Ploughing Championships.

Micron Agritech’s CEO and co-founder, Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi, said raising the funds has been a challenging but rewarding experience.

“Our aim now is to help alleviate some of the pressures currently facing the animal health sector, as levels of resistance increase globally and regulators push to reduce the use of medication, whilst improving farmer income by saving them time and money,” he said.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic