This article was first published in University of New Brunswick UNB Alumni News Spring 2017. This is an edited version.
The equine industry in Canada contributes $20 billion per year to the economy, and one young entrepreneur is vying for a piece of that pie with an innovative new product that will change the lives of horse breeders.
Emergence client, Lisa Pfister, who is graduating with a master’s degree in Technology Management & Entrepreneurship at the University of New Brunswick, entered the program with a bunch of product ideas to make horse breeding easier, cheaper and healthier for the horses.
Her classes during the first semester and working with industry mentors as part of the program made her understand the importance of good data and how to build it.
This led her to create her startup, PFERA (a play on ‘horse’ in German), and her first product – a biotech chemistry plus IT solution that allows breeders to more accurately predict birthing in mares.
Her patent-pending product includes technology that interprets milk analysis of mares and reduces the variability of results from 61% down to 3-7%. This kind of accuracy means that breeders will no longer need to monitor their mares for up to 6 weeks around estimated birthing time; PFERA’s technology will predict birthing time to within 6-12 hours. The tech connects to a server to collect data and is sent to breeders through an app on their phone.
But Pfister isn’t stopping with just one product. She’s already moving onto more innovative applications for the equine industry, including technology to improve breeding management records and create graphical information for breeders and veterinarians. This kind of tech doesn’t currently exist but will be extremely helpful in monitoring the health of mares.
Pfister has been riding since she was twelve, and now has turned her attention to breeding. She credits her engineering training for her desire to simplify tools and processes and design the best products and solutions possible. The Master of Technology Management & Entrepreneurship program opened her eyes to the business side of tech startups, in particular how to build the test data she needs to get her product commercializable, and how to attract the venture capital she needs to grow on a large scale.
During the third semester of the one-year program, she’ll be working in the field on a test pilot with a breeder, a veterinarian, and eleven mares. She expects to have her finished product (which she plans to refine down to the size of a smartphone) on the market by early 2018, with interest already from potential clients in European countries. She’s targeting not only North America and Europe but also southern hemisphere markets like Argentina and Australia.
She’ll have some resources to help. PFERA won the provincial grand prize in NBIF’s Breakthru Competition in March, and walked away with over $300,000.
“The momentum of the program is spurring me to run with my product and a bunch of other ideas I have in the back of my mind. Students in the program are always helping each other out and the mentors we have access to have pushed me to take risks while at the same time slow down and develop my product in the right way. I’m blown away by the traction PFERA’s received in less than a year.”