Mastaplex is a Dunedin-based company which has the aim of developing and commercialising a point-of-care bovine mastitis diagnostic test.

Mastitis is a problem that effects all International milk operations (there are approximately 270 million dairy cows).  Currently farmers diagnose Mastitis via visual identification of inflammation of a cows udders and/or clotting of the milk.  Farmers and Vets usually choose to start antibiotic treatment straight away and make a best guess of which bacteria may be the cause. Dr Olaf Bork began development of this break-through technology at the University of Otago. As far as market size is concerned, it is estimated that in the US alone, the disease costs the industry around $1.7 billion per annum.

Ensuring healthy cows

Ensuring healthy cows

It was of course exactly this type of investment that significantly increased Wharf42’s own interest in AgTech. As co-founders of WNT Ventures, we have become much more aware of some of the amazing research being undertaken in this space in New Zealand Universities and Crown Research Institutes. As a consultancy which has traditionally focused on more ICT-centric technologies, this pivot is creating some serious opportunities.

It has enabled us to co-organise the 2016 SVForum AgTech Conference in Silicon Valley next April. We are not only able to bring a growing awareness of this space to the event, we are attracting a number of more traditional tech / ICT players to the table. There is an increasing realisation, particularly in New Zealand, that it is no longer a matter of choice between primary sector v ICT (i.e. an either / or economic priority). There is a significant opportunity for both two sectors to work ever more closely as technology and innovation plays an ever more important role in the development of future farming practices. Tech-focused incubators such as WNT Ventures can make this magic happen.

Mastaplex is such a case. It’s a great example of complex IP being taken out of the lab and then incubated into a commercial environment. There are many others. By mapping software development with AgTech research output, New Zealand can leverage its strengths in both of these fields. That’s the message that we will be taking to Silicon Valley next April. It’s a message worth sharing with the wider global market.