Jennifer Corley has years of experience as an equine surgeon. However, when she was involved in a serious car accident a number of years ago, it meant she could no longer do her job.
As a result, in 2010, she started up a company called Veterinary Advances Ltd., which became a leading developer and producer of smartphone apps for the veterinary industry.
Jennifer later realised there was a gap in the equine industry for technology that could track and record horse health data. And so, EquiTrace was founded, alongside her husband Kevin, who has a background in equine medicine and critical care.
Tracking equine health
“75% of farms in Ireland and the US still use pen and paper when tracking their animals,” said Jennifer.
“There was a lack of technology in the equine space. Nobody has a laptop in the barn, but everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. We knew that technology could be an incredibly effective way to record and give first-hand knowledge to people about horses.”
Jennifer explained that simple human error can often lead to bigger mistakes such as the wrong medication being administered. Or, there might be a positive drug test because an error has been made on the dose, for example.
“A lot of the problems in horses come around traceability and identity. EquiTrace uses microchip scanners to track a horse’s health, identity, welfare and its whereabouts,” she said.
Since its beginnings, EquiTrace – which is based in the Curragh, Kildare – has been supported by Enterprise Ireland.
“Enterprise Ireland has been an amazing support. Not only have they provided €250,000 in funding, but they’ve also helped with everything from financial planning to all the other aspects you need to know about setting up a new business,” said Jennifer.
“I’m originally from Scotland, but I’ve never seen the level of support for businesses that Enterprise Ireland provides in any other country.”
Last year, EquiTrace won the Best Overall Start-up Award and the Vet Technology Award at Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena Awards.
The Innovation Arena Competition, which is run in partnership with the National Ploughing Association, is an annual competition for businesses and innovators in the agritech sector. Companies can enter their pioneering agri-related products and services for consideration.
Jennifer said winning at the awards has shone a light on the business.
“It was amazing to win at the awards. It’s very hard working on a start-up business, so it’s great to get the recognition. Winning got us a lot of attention too, which is very useful,” she said.
“And last year was the first year the Innovation Arena Awards had a Vet Technology Award. So, to be the very first winners of that was quite something.
“That’s something that we will always carry with us and be known for – being the first company to have won the Vet Technology Award. It’s a super achievement.”
Today, EquiTrace is making a big impact on animal health and welfare and the company has a commercial partnership with Merck in the US. This involves the combination of EquiTrace’s software with Merck’s Bio-Thermo microchip, allowing trainers and owners to safely read a horse’s temperature from a Merck Bio-Thermo microchip.
“This can help to prevent and manage infectious disease, such as equine herpesvirus, influenza and strangles. After Covid-19, we all know how quickly an infectious disease can spread,” said Jennifer.
Looking forward, Jennifer’s vision is to continue to grow the business, which today has seven staff.
“Traceability of horses is a very pressing problem globally, both in terms of tracing disease spread, but also looking at tracing other welfare issues,” she added.
“For example, the fate of animals post-racing. Recent scandals around this have driven initiatives to help racehorses, but these need data to convince the public the industry really cares about the horses competing in their sport.
“Without our technology being able to stand over every animal, this is almost impossible. With EquiTrace, every horse can be accounted for.
“We, as a company, are definitely in the right place at the right time.
“Ireland is a leader in producing top-class horses, and is a leader in producing amazing technology in other fields,” Jennifer continued.
“We want to be the ones that really put Ireland up there in terms of horse health technology. And the support we’ve had in getting there, from the likes of Enterprise Ireland, has been amazing. It’s been an interesting ride. Onwards and upwards.”
To enter this year’s Innovation Arena Awards, click here.