Irish firms show form to innovate
Irish companies working in the bloodstock and animal health industry are developing markets by being innovative and flexible
IRELAND IS known around the world for the quality of its competitive horses. But what about the quality of our innovation to support them? Recent years have been marked by the emergence here of technologies to help manage animal health, match horses with courses and even improve the training of jockeys.
One innovation is a portable and easy-to-use nebuliser to combat respiratory infections.
“Competition or high performance horses like racehorses and eventers are prone to getting small infections in the lung when they are travelling or in different environments,” says Tom Lalor, sales executive in Ireland with Claregalway-based Nortev.
Nebulisers for horses can be cumbersome and time-consuming machines, according to Lalor, but he says that Nortev has come up with a more convenient device called Flexineb.
“It’s a soft rubber mask which fits comfortably and tightly around the nose and the jaw so it makes an airtight seal,” he says. “When you start administering treatment, the only way they can get oxygen is through a little valve on the front chamber which is attached to the front of the mask. So every breath they take are getting a breath of whatever you are treating them with.”
In practice, that means being able to treat several horses quickly, he adds.
“You can use this on a whole yard of horses. You can treat a horse for 12 minutes, then clean [the nebuliser] and it’s on the next horse four minutes later.”
Nortev sells its nebuliser in 15 countries, and Lalor describes how the reputation of the Irish horse is a plus when bringing the technology to international markets.
“We are known for having good horses in every industry, especially showjumping, eventing and horseracing,” he says. “And when they see an Irish product it helps, it’s another selling point.”
Dr Heinrich Anhold echoes the benefit of starting up an equine technology company in Ireland. In 2008, he founded Epona Biotech, which is based at the Business Innovation Centre at the Institute of Technology in Sligo. The company is developing a portable analyser for blood samples that can be used quite literally at the stable door, making information available at the horse’s side to optimise health and fitness, rather than having to send samples off for analysis.
“Ireland is an ideal location for us to start up,” says Anhold. “Getting out and in front of customers is very important to us. Ireland has many of our industry leaders at home, and the others aren’t too far away.”
Epona now does the product development in-house, and has been concentrating its research in key market geographies such as Newmarket, Lambourn, Chantilly, Normandy and Lexington, explains Anhold.
“Closer to home we have been constantly demonstrating our models and prototypes to customers in Ireland to get their continuous feedback – this is very important to us,” he says. “I’m very glad to say that we have made major strides in the past year and we now have a working prototype that we are scaling up for a test market launch within the coming months. We’re very excited.”