Vets Jennifer and Kevin Corley are the co-founders of EquiTrace, an animal health start-up designed to bring horse healthcare into the digital age. At present, the manual recording of information, such any medication an animal has been prescribed, is still the main way the equine industry keeps records and it's a time-consuming process that's prone to mistakes.
By contrast, the EquiTrace app is designed to be fast, accurate and easy to use. It records information in real-time by linking the animal’s biothermal microchip to a smartphone via a handheld scanner. The product, which is aimed at stud farms, racehorse trainers and vets, was launched in October last year and allows horse owners to collect essential data accurately at their horse’s side.
"Apps offer a unique advantage to horse people as no one has a laptop in the barn but everyone has a smartphone in their pocket," Jennifer Corley says. "EquiTrace works with any scanner, any chip and any phone and is what the industry really needs to solve fundamental problems around traceability, animal identity, welfare, medication and infectious diseases."
Corley points out that about 75 per cent of farms in Ireland and the US still use pen and paper and even those with IT management solutions start by recording the data by hand. "Very often simple and inevitable human errors lead to costly mistakes," Corley says. "The wrong medication can be administered. Someone forgets to record information which creates problems for compliance, or you can get a positive drugs test result because an error has been made on the dose or withdrawal time. The potential for reputational damage due to this type of error can be significant. This doesn't happen with EquiTrace because it recognises drugs by barcode so there is no error in reading or recording treatments."
Corley believes that traceability is germane to making meaningful advancements in animal health while also protecting the equine sector from welfare scandals and infectious diseases. However, despite some serious efforts to create better databases, attempts to date have failed.
“It was very clear to us as veterinarians that horse people universally hate paperwork and that there were intrinsic problems in keeping up with the increasing burden of regulations,” Corley says. “EquiTrace saves people a lot of administrative and recording time – the equivalent of two full-time salaries per farm. The system is secure. It can only be accessed by approved people and it has been designed to prevent medical errors and fraud.
“EquiTrace not only records data. It also provides users with information,” she adds. “For example, the system automatically recognises over 1,000 medications by barcode and will suggest withdrawal times as well as giving reminders of the withdrawal times to staff. EquiTrace frees people to do what they love – looking after horses. It also gives horse trainers, managers and riders access to medical records on par with those used in veterinary hospitals.”
Jennifer Corley is a specialist equine surgeon while her husband's specialisation is equine medicine and critical care. The company was founded in 2019 and now employs seven people. The Corleys are not new to applying technology in veterinary settings. In 2017, they developed and launched veterinaryadvances.com, a medication-related database for equine vets which is now used as a standard tool by professional veterinary bodies in the UK and Australia.
In 2021 EquiTrace raised €1 million in funding from the angel investment network HBAN and it has also received €250,000 in support from Enterprise Ireland. The company makes its money by charging users a monthly subscription fee per horse. "EquiTrace is commercial partners with Merck in the US and 100 per cent of the farms that beta tested the product have retained the app commercially so we already have users in the USA, France, Germany, Sweden, UK and Ireland with strong interest from the UAE," Corley says.