As it begins its pilot project in New Brunswick, SomaDetect has been validating the international demand for its product. The Fredericton AgTech company recently signed letters of intent with three-quarters of the 80 farmers it met with during a recent jaunt to Vermont.

Working with the Saint John sales-focused consultancy Momentum, SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande made a four-day road trip to Vermont to assess the market for her product, which can quickly detect diseases in cows. Vermont is an interesting market for SomaDetect because it has 900 dairy farms, which is more than all of Atlantic Canada. What’s more, some of those farms are far bigger than what we have in Canada’s East Coast.

“A farm with 400 to 600 cows is a big farm in Atlantic Canada,” said Deshpande in a Thursday phone interview, which she conducted while monitoring a milking machine in New Brunswick. “But in Vermont, we met people with 5,000 cows and that’s a different market than what we have here.”

The trip validated Deshpande’s belief that SomaDetect can find a market beyond Atlantic Canada. In four days she met with 80 farmers and 60 of them signed letters of intent to buy the product once it’s on the market. That’s 6 percent of the state’s dairy industry, bagged in a four-day trip.

Momentum focused on building a sales funnel of dairy farmers from Maine, Vermont and New York state, and secured support from economic development agencies in each state. Its team built the contact lists and executed a mission to these states securing signed letters of interest in SomaDetect’s technology.

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The trip came as SomaDetect – which won the $180,000 second-place prize in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition this year – began its pilot project. The installation of a device in a New Brunswick farm came two months ahead of schedule.

“Feedback gained from the pilot project will be used to further develop and commercialize our technology,” said Deshpande in a press release. “Once the sensor is commercially ready, Vermont will be a key state to springboard SomaDetect into the U.S. market.”

SomaDetect helps dairy farmers check the health of their herd quickly, accurately and precisely while testing the quality of their milk.

Deshpande’s patented technology sends a laser beam through the milk as each cow is milked, instantly recording the fat content and somatic cell count, both of which indicate the presence of the disease mastitis and the quality of the milk. The farmer has the data instantly for each cow twice a day.

By catching the disease early enough, SomaDetect can prevent mastitis disease from moving through the herd, save the lives of some cows, and reduce the amount of antibiotics used by dairy farmers. The product also captures each farm’s data in the cloud, which can produce reports in real time for the farmer.

Deshpande is looking to Vermont and Maine – which she can drive to in a few hours – to be beachhead states for the company’s advance into the U.S. market. And the validation in Vermont is timely as it comes as the company is working on a fundraising round with a target of $2 million.

“SomaDetect is aiming to be New Brunswick’s next big agro-tech success story,” Deshpande said. “We are excited about what the future brings, and about the interest we have from dairy farmers here.”