Northern Ireland scientists have secured £30,000 in venture capital funding to develop a system simplifying the process of recording farm medicine use. The application, created by researchers from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Ulster University, will also collate valuable industry data.

The system, Seamless Antibiotic Reporting (dubbed 'SMART' for short) is designed to capture animal and drug use data in real-time.

The team behind secured a place on the DigiSpark programme and along with £10,000 to conduct further market research to develop the concept. A pitch at the end of the DigiSpark programme the project won the ‘Best Potential Spinout’ award securing a further £20,000 from tech start-up investors. Lead researchers Dr. Steven Morrison and Dr. Aimee Craig from AFBI, recently teamed up with Dr. Patrick Dunlop and Dr. Gennday Lubarsky from the School of Engineering at Ulster University, who brought their wealth of experience in human healthcare technology to the project.

Throughout the eight-week ‘market discovery’ phase, the SMART team engaged with a wide range of stakeholders across the agri-food industry to identify ways to increase the impact of the SMART tool.

The DigiSpark programme also offered Dr. Craig and Dr. Dunlop the chance to gain insights from other leading researchers from across the globe at the Fifth International Conference on Responsible Use of Antibiotics in Animals. The market discovery journey included a ‘design sprint’ event including a mixture of vets, farmers, processors, government and consumers who discussed the potential pains, gains, opportunities and ideas for the SMART system. Dr. Simon Doherty, from Queen’s University Belfast, who joined the team in an advisory role, commented: "The funding will help to develop an innovative platform to capture data at the pen-side.
Once you know what you are using and how, you can set appropriate targets to reduce, refine and replace these products as part of a sustainable livestock system."
The team are now setting their sights on securing further funding from Invest NI to field-test their prototype before bringing it to market.