Antimicrobial resistance or AMR for short. By now you will have heard about it, probably the same way that you periodically hear about soil degradation or deforestation. It may seem like another one of these line items on the long list of things that are wrong in the world at the moment. It might be a bit unclear just quite how bad this antimicrobial resistance is, so let us elucidate here. In 2019, an estimated 1.2 million people died in the world because of bacterial AMR.
We as human use quite a bit of antimicrobials, but the livestock industry globally uses even more than we do, and this is a problem. Because internal parasites are the most common health issue in animals globally, the livestock industry has become highly dependent on medication against parasites to make sure farm yields are protected.
All farmed ruminants with outdoor access are particularly exposed to these parasites, as the main transmission mechanism is through manure on the ground being in regular proximity with feed (mostly grass). The larvae gets ingested and stays in the gastrointestinal tracts of the animal, which interferes with digestion, causes diarrhoea and reduces appetite. If it remains untreated, it can cause death. To combat parasites, farmers use antimicrobial and anthelmintic medication often in an untargeted preventative manner. This blanket dosing of animals not only means that farmers incur unnecessary costs, it also causes resistance to medication (ability of the parasite to tolerate a normally effective dose of the anthelmintic) – a major health issue globally.
Governments are taking this problem seriously. The EU for example passed a legislation which came into force early 2022 and bans dosing animals without a prescription (including via medicated feed), requiring an “evidence-based approach”. Concretely, this means a vet or a qualified person on the farm will have to ascertain the presence of parasites in an animal or a herd before administering treatment. This of course increases the need for testing drastically, something the current infrastructure of manual testing labs is completely unable to handle. It also moves the industry from a blanket use of medicine to a much more targeted diagnostic-based treatment. Currently, less than half of farmers test their animals for parasites due to a lack of time, money and a convenient solution as tests require farmers to send samples to a lab.
The Micron Kit is a revolutionary product, offering lab-quality tests in the field through a small portable device and app, with results given within minutes instead of days. The powerful combination of proprietary hardware and software analyse the sample through an AI algorithm that detects the presence of parasites and counts them. Being easy to use, quick and cost effective, the solution allows farmers, vets and paramedical professionals alike to treat only when necessary, at the right dosage. Micron’s app also neatly keeps records of treatments (mandatory under law), saving vets and farmers precious time spent on reporting to government authorities. Already partnering with some of the largest animal health companies in the world, the young team envisions the kit to be the number one tool for disease detection in the coming years.
After Breedr a few months ago, this is our second investment in livestock technology. We remain convinced that this segment of Ag presents vast opportunities for improvement in terms of technology, management practices, genetics and methane reduction. To move the industry forward, we will need robust datasets based on which its various stakeholders can make the best decisions and track progress.
The unique environment surrounding the fight against antimicrobial resistance is such that it creates the perfect alignment of stars for a new tech-enabled player to grab market share quickly. The data on the type of diseases identified, how they impact performance, the treatments administered and where parasites have developed resistance will itself be of enormous interest to governments and animal health companies alike. Based on this alone, Micron is ideally positioned to become a global platform of high value animal health data. We’re very excited to see them grow and hopefully work closer with Breedr in the future.
It’s with great pleasure that we welcome Daniel, Tara, Sean, Jose, Harry and the team at Micron into the growing Investbridge Agritech VC fund family.