uLikeKorea boosts health of farm animals

Startup joins hands with SoftBank to make inroads into Aussie market.

Kim Hee-jin, CEO of ICT startup uLikeKorea, has devoted herself to the research of livestock healthcare technology based on the belief that the health of people depends on the health of livestock.

After six years of research and development, the Seoul-based startup, which was set up in October 2012, officially launched the ICT-based livestock healthcare service, LiveCare, in October 2015.

The LiveCare service places a bio-capsule containing internet of things (IoT) technology in the ruminant stomach of cattle by oral administration to collect and analyze the biometrics such as body temperature and pH level in real time.

Measured data is communicated over networks, allowing owners of farms to check any health problems of their cattle through a smartphone app or a web program.

“Our service enables life-long systematic monitoring of the health of livestock as the bio-capsule effectively functions in their stomach until they are slaughtered,” Kim said in an interview with The Korea Times.

The LiveCare bio-capsule was the first in Korea to be certified as an animal medical device for oral use and has been approved for safety and efficacy, Kim said.

“In the past, ranchers used products such as collars attached to the neck of cattle to check biometrics, but such products are easily affected by the external environment, thus offer less reliable information,” she said. “Compared to existing products, the LiveCare bio-capsule that is administered orally offers highly reliable and accurate biometric data.”

The bio-capsule is made with sugar cane and bio-plastic, thus does not damage cattle.

Diseases that can be identified by the bio-capsule include foot-and-mouth, diarrhea, fever, sepsis, ketosis, mastitis, Japanese encephalitis and pneumonia.

This is possible as advanced sensors in the capsule measure and analyze the core body temperature of cattle more than 300 times a day, making detection and early treatment of such diseases possible.

“Not only monitoring signs of illnesses in cattle, but also predicting their calving cycle is also important for ranchers as it is directly related to productivity,” Kim said. “The ICT-based livestock farming offered by the LiveCare service provides such information as well.”

The startup has also successfully developed the bio-capsule for the calves in a bid to provide a full spectrum of health monitoring services for cattle.

In the case of bio-capsules equipped with a GPS function, it is possible to trace the movement the cows in real time.

The LiveCare service can also be used as a registration system and to keep a clear record of each animal’s health.

uLikeKorea now possesses more than 500 million data points for cattle diseases, claiming to be the only company that has this type of livestock bio-metric data globally.

Kim said her company has also developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered data analytics system to monitor the cows for 24 hours and provide ranchers with notifications of any changes in the biometrics of their animals.

uLikeKorea has successfully entered the Japanese Wagyu market and begun to make profits in the first half of the year after three years of preparations such as applying for patents and obtaining a certificate of the oral animal medical device in Japan.

The company also signed a collaboration agreement with the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in May to make inroads into the Australian market.

“Under the contract, we are developing a specialized device for the Australian cattle market in cooperation with SoftBank and will begin sales in the first half of next year,” Kim said.

Australia is the world’s third-largest beef exporting country, shipping products to about 120 countries.

uLikeKorea is seeking to offer its LiveCare service for about 500,000 cows for the next three years, Kim said, noting that her company would be able to expand into neighboring New Zealand as well through the Australian market.

The company became associated with the Japanese conglomerate in May last year when the startup was selected as one of the final eight companies in the third SoftBank Innovation Program, in which about 300 firms competed.

The program is designed to create synergy through partnerships with companies with innovative ideas and technologies. SoftBank provides selected companies with development costs and helps with marketing activities.

Kim said SoftBank highly appreciated the potential of her company’s AI-based livestock healthcare service, continuing to support efforts to create more various business models.

To further expand its global footprint, ulikeKorea has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Danish government and will establish a subsidiary there in September to access key European countries.

Other markets the company is eying include Brazil and the United States.

“It is an age when cattle are raised by AI. Real-time analysis of livestock biometric information is conveyed to the farmers to facilitate their operations,” Kim said, noting that the rich data her firm possesses will create other new business opportunities.

“We plan to create a system through which we can offer farm operation consulting, customized treatment as well as big data centers,” she said.

She noted the services offered by her company are also connected to animal welfare as the advanced technology helps consistently manage animal health.

Kim added, “Our services currently focus on cattle, but we are planning to expand the application to pigs, chickens and lambs in the near future.”

According to U.S.-based market researcher ReportLinker, the scale of the livestock monitoring and management market is expected to reach $4.84 billion in 2021.

Kim attended Ewha Womans University where she received her Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in computer science and engineering.

uLikeKorea was awarded the Best Mobile Innovation for Enterprise at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ prize given to the top six firms in the Agro Innovation Lab acceleration program in 2017.

In December 2017, the company was named as the winner in the Startup World Cup Korea Championship.

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