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Blog: How insect protein, wearable tech and diagnostics companies are disrupting the animal health industry

08 April 2020

Numerous young companies are trail blazing through the animal health industry, with many newly emerging on the start-up scene.

Companies with technologies ranging from more traditional animal health products such as vaccines and diagnostics, to more progressive offerings like insects for feed and cannabis products for pets have emerged. An interesting trend was the capturing of data to quantify quality of life of companion and production animals, using questionnaires, sensors, or wearables to measure an animal's perceived welfare. Sustainability and nutrition are also key trends, with several start-ups working on methane reduction in production animals and modulating either the microbiome or alternative feed stuffs to better nurture animals. Not as surprising, were aquaculture technologies, which have surged in the past years with an industry-wide emphasis on meeting the global demand for protein. Key aqua-tech companies are harnessing the power of data collection to count sea lice and risk forecasting. At the same time a number of start-ups have also launched with more conventional animal health products like pet monoclonals or point of care diagnostics.

Insect Protein

In the last year we saw many non-traditional animal health companies making strides and breaking ceilings. Companies like Ynsect, successfully raised $139.9 million as part of its series C financing in February of 2019. This was the largest AgTech investment outside of the US, which helped them increase production by building the "world's largest insect farm" specific for mealworms. Similarly, Entocycle, is forging down the same path as Ynsect, however, they are using black soldier fly larva as a protein alternative.

Diagnostics

A number of diagnostics companies are also our watch list, for example Biotangents, a UK based company which is following the conventional route of animal health products by developing a simple and adaptable diagnostic technology for detecting genetic markers of infectious diseases. This takes the focus off centralized large laboratories and puts the test in the hands of veterinarians on site. Their first test detects bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), which is responsible for £61 million in economic damage in the UK alone. This company is comparable to AgPlus Diagnostics, another diagnostics company which uses a test distributed in an immunoassay form.

Wearable Technology

In wearable technology, Fitbark and Felcana, lead the way. US-based Fitbark builds collar sensors and software that collects data about a pet's location, activity, quality of sleep, overall behavior, and other welfare metrics. To date they have received $3.2 million in seed capital and are working with partners like Fitbit and Elanco. This compares to UK-based Felcana which is a kit that uses scientific algorithms to interpret pet behavior patterns such as drinking, eating and sleeping.

These are just three examples of areas that have exploded onto the scene within two short years. Such quick improvements in technology and differentiation in market needs speaks volumes to the fast-paced and changing landscape of the animal health industry. It is imperative for companies to be agile and fluid, adapting to customer needs and meeting industry demands. This type of movement is hard for the large multinational corporations to keep up with, giving start-ups a unique niche to thrive in. Those companies which can develop and execute product plans and growth strategies, have the highest likelihood for acquisition or licensure.

In our latest report 'Disruptors and Innovators' we document 115 start ups that are making impactful advances in the animal health industry in 2020. In addition, we look back at our previous report to see where the top 20 companies are now, with 80% of the companies we previously selected having went on to make significant advances within the industry.

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