In 2019, the team had enough information from pig farmers and the work on the SIMkit had progressed to the point where the MTRAC AgBio Innovation Hub began the work of fast-tracking Motion Grazer’s path to commercialization. MTRAC is an acronym for Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization, a statewide program funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Since 2017, McIntyre had served as director of the Spartan Innovations Venture Fellows program, and a team of advisers that included an MBA student and two Ph.D. students was put together to offer mentorship and advice.
In March 2020, an MTRAC grant of $96,000 was awarded to commercialize the technology. Last October, Motion Grazer was formally launched and McIntyre left his entrepreneur-in-residence position to become CEO.
Red Cedar Ventures became the first investor in the company with a convertible note of $50,000.
“We like John McIntyre, and we like agtech. It’s an exciting company for MSU,” said Jeff Wesley, Red Cedar’s executive director.
McIntyre said he has met with 25-30 potential investors and hopes to raise $750,000-$1 million this year and $1 million to $1.25 million early next. “Nobody has said no, yet. We’re looking for someone to wave their hands excitedly and want to invest,” said McIntyre. “I’m optimistic we can raise the first round in the next several months.”
He said an early use of funds will be to hire five or six employees, including at least two sales staff and two or three experts in machine learning.
Skip Simms, the vice president of Ann Arbor Spark and managing director of the Ann Arbor-based Michigan Angel Fund, is one of those potential investors who has vetted the technology on behalf of his angel group. He likes the market opportunity and is eager to see how Motion Grazer’s technology improves in the near future as it gets ready to go to market.
“I have known John for several years, going back to Vestaron. He has found yet another company addressing a challenge in the ag space,” said Simms. “It’s classic in that there is a wasteful and costly aspect to raising pigs and hogs that unless you are in the business, you can’t appreciate. It appears Motion Grazer could solve a real problem. This needs a little more validation but this should take only months, not years.”
Motion Grazer has filed for two patents, one for the hardware and software involved in the SIMkit, the other for the algorithms that power the machine learning that happens as cameras monitor an individual sow’s gait over time and measure key points on her body.
McIntyre said the company is now assessing a better camera system and has contracted with SpinDance Labs in Holland to refine its algorithms. The company is currently studying and filming sows at the Michigan State University Swine Farm and three other area swine farms.
He said the company will be looking for a small Lansing area lab and office in 2022 and expects to have its system ready to go to market my mid-2022. He said revenue will be based on a monthly subscription basis, with initial outlay minimal for farmers, perhaps $2,000 per overhead camera per barn.
Motion Grazer AI’s initial market will be swine, but it plans to branch out to cows, sheep and poultry, too.
Credit: Google News