Waikato based Agritech company Halter has raised $8 million from US venture capitalists which it will use to develop its IoT and artificial intelligence technologies that help cattle farmers manage their herds.
The investment round was led by Data Collective, the largest backers of Rocket lab, with support from Founders Fund (Peter Thiel), and Ubiquity Ventures. Rocket Labs’ Peter Beck, Promus Ventures’ Mike Collett and Matt Ocko from Data Collective now account for three of Halter’s four board members.
Halter says it has developed a solar powered, GPS-enabled intelligent neckband that uses sensory cues to direct cows, enabling farmers to move and manage their cows remotely with a few simple swipes of a screen.
“Complex cow movements, path planning and health and heat [oestrous] detection are all done by the AI behind Halter platform,” the company says.
“Using Halter’s app, farmers are able to set schedules where herds are guided to and from the milk shed, receive alerts when cows are showing signs of poor health or distress, and set virtual fences keeping cows out of rivers and drains.”
It adds: “The latter point is particularly important, because inadvertent contamination of NZ waterways is a huge environmental issue – now solved by Halter.”
Halter claims to also enable farmers to increase milk yield by “using technology to allow pasture management techniques that have never before been possible,” and, by tracking the intake of each cow “to ensure the entire herd receives the optimal amount of feed.”
Halter’s CEO and founder Craig Piggott said the funding would enable the company to scale and “meet the intense demand and pre-orders that are rolling in.” The company says it is already taking pre-orders from North and South America, Australia and Europe.
Halter presently employs almost 20 engineers, scientists and animal behaviour experts, and the funding will see the team grow four-fold. It is looking to recruit a number of positions in Auckland and the Waikato region including engineering technicians, data analysts and cow behavioural experts ahead of commercial rollout later in 2018.
Halter says its technology has already undergone tens of thousands of hours of testing at its Morrinsville research and development farm, and work is underway to begin operations on five pilot farms across the Waikato region, where it will initially be made available commercially.