Making It Work: Agritech start-up Micron raises €500,000 in seed funding for rapid parasite testing kit

Dublin-based Micron aims to ‘change the industry’ when it comes to farm animals’ healthcare

Micron Agritech was set up by Daniel Izquierdo, Jose Lopez, Tara McElligott and Sean Smith in 2019 when they were students at Technological University Dublin. Picture: Conor Mulhern

Micron Agritech, the Dublin-based start-up, has raised €500,000 in seed funding for its rapid parasite testing kit as part of its bid to “change the industry” when it comes to farm animals’ healthcare.

The company was set up by Sean Smith, Daniel Izquierdo, Tara McElligott and Jose Lopez in 2019 when they were students at Technological University Dublin. The founders believe they are well placed to help farmers and vets adapt to looming European legislation that will ban the prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming.

In 2018, the European Parliament approved legislation which will ban antibiotics being given to healthy farm animals as a preventative measure.

The change, which comes into effect next year, was prompted by concerns over a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to the overuse of certain medications. It means farmers and animal healthcare professionals will need to take a more targeted approach and to do that they will need to know which animals require treatment.

Currently, they have to take samples, send them to a lab and wait up to five days for a result when seeking to prevent parasites among their livestock.

Micron’s product allows users to test for parasites on cattle, sheep and horses, then plug into a smartphone for almost instant results. The company says it is cheaper, faster and easier than lab-based testing, and will help farmers comply with the new regulations.

“There’s a massive challenge in implementing what the legislation strives to implement – the targeted treatment model,” Daniel Izquierdo, Micron’s co-founder and chief executive, said.

“We think we have a very unique solution to the problem.”

The firm has received €200,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland, as well as investment from Bimeda, the agritech venture capital fund and The Yield Lab, the European agritech accelerator fund.

None of the founders have direct experience of agriculture, but Izquierdo said that in some ways, that has been an advantage.

“A lot of times when there are problems in particular industries, having a view from the outside helps find innovative solutions,” he said. “It’s a huge advantage that we’ve got a group of innovators that are really set to disrupt the industry.”

Micron, which plans to launch its kits to coincide with the new legislation coming into effect next year, is attempting to tap into the current movement in agriculture away from the blanketed use of anti-parasitic medicine and towards a more data-driven approach.

“Regulators are moving to change it, the industry itself is trying to change it, but there’s not a lot of solutions out there,” Izquierdo said.

Micron will soon publish the results of a clinical trial of 1,000 livestock samples which will compare the lab-based testing against its own kits. It will conduct further testing over the summer ahead of the full launch of the product next year.

Currently, the company – which employs nine people – is not seeking further investment, Izquierdo said, though he added that it will be “increasingly considering” further fundraising over the coming months.

For Micron’s founders, it has been a whirlwind journey since they started working full time on the product nine months ago. “In that nine-month period, the amount of things that we’ve done, it’s only when you reflect and look back that you realise there’s a lot there,” said Izquierdo.