SomaDetect, the Fredericton company that helps dairy farmers detect early signs of disease in their cattle, is becoming the most precocious of startups.
The company, which began only last year, is stringing together a list of accolades that is rare in such a young company. The list grew longer last week when the company was named as a finalist for the 43North competition in Buffalo, N.Y. Earlier in the week, the company won US$5,000 by capturing the prize for best pitch at the ninth annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, Mo. SomaDetect is also a finalist for the New Brunswick Bioscience Achievement Award, which will be awarded Thursday night.
There are a few Atlantic Canadian startups – like Halifax companies Spring Loaded Technology or CarbonCure Technologies – whose trophy cabinets are bursting from repeated wins at a range of events. What’s unusual about SomaDetect is the number of awards it has won in its first full year of operation.
“We are honoured to be selected and to be recognized as one of the top emerging companies in the 43North Competition,” said SomaDetect CEO Bethany Deshpande in a statement. “New York is a strategic state for SomaDetect, as it is among the top five dairy-producing states and would be an excellent region to begin U.S. sales.
Founded by Deshpande and COO Nicholas Clermont, 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.
The company was selected as one of 22 companies to present at the Ag Innovation Showcase, which bills itself as the “world’s premier event focusing on the convergence of agriculture and technology.” In the previous eight years, the companies presenting at the showcase have raised a total of $477 million in direct investment.
Then a couple of days later, SomaDetect learned it was one of the 16 finalists in the 43 North competition.
SomaDetect joins one other Canadian startup as a finalist and is the only Atlantic Canadian company remaining in the competition. Some 502 applicants entered the competition, and eight will receive prizes. Five companies will win US$500,000, while one will win US$550,000 and the runner-up will take home US$650,000. The winner will receive US$1 million. SomaDetect will pitch at the 43North finals in Buffalo on October 5.
Since competing in the BioInnovation Challenge at BioPort Atlantic in Halifax last October, the company has won a string of accolades. It was named recently to the CIX Top 20, a group of the top innovation companies in Canada. That came weeks after it won $50,000 from the Fierce Founder Bootcamp at Communitech in Kitchener, Ont. Earlier this year, the company won the $180,000 second-place prize in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition.
SomaDetect has been working on its pilot project in New Brunswick, and recently validated the international demand for its product. The company signed letters of intent with three-quarters of the 80 farmers it met with during a recent trip to Vermont.
“The announcement of being a finalist [in 43North] comes at an exciting time for SomaDetect as we recently unveiled new developments in our technology and are raising funds to commercialize our technology,” said Deshpande. “If successful, the 43North Competition would play a large part helping us move forward in this.”