ESA BIC UK helps start-up keep chickens healthy and happy
Flox provides smart insights to poultry farmers to improve their business operations. Using sensors and artificial intelligence (AI), plus robotics based on the ExoMars Rover, farmers can monitor the health of their chickens without disturbing them. This enables them to optimise day-to-day processes and helps to boost welfare standards across the supply chain.
Thrive MV was founded in early 2018 as a collaboration between experts in the poultry business and in robotics, following an introduction by ESA.
The overall technical solution quickly became apparent and there was a clear business case. However, the team recognised challenges they needed to overcome in their business practices and in attracting initial clients, which they believed could be addressed by ESA BIC UK, following the success experienced by a sister company.
- £41,500 funding towards development of the rover and AI systems
- Business mentoring by the ESA BIC UK team
- Brand recognition gained through affiliation with ESA
- Media coverage, prompting contact from potential clients
- Networking opportunities with satellite specialists
Since joining the ESA BIC UK in June 2018, Flox has increased its team
from two people (full-time equivalent) to three (FTE, six part-time). The mentoring support from ESA BIC provided valuable structure around
how to run a business, while the grant accelerated development of the solution to a stage where it could be tested and demonstrated to farmers and investors. The networking opportunities at Harwell were also useful, adding to the team’s broader expertise and thereby enhancing conversations with potential investors.
Flox has run several pilot projects
and signed its first commercial client, Menchine Farm, which has made a significant investment in the business. Its solution has received media coverage in publications including The Economist, leading to enquiries from businesses responsible for a total of over 2,500 chicken sheds globally. Flox was also a finalist in the Tesco Agri T-Jam in October 2018.
“Having set delivery deadlines that we had to work towards as an ESA BIC incubatee was what really made the programme important to us as a start- up. In addition, the funding we received to build our demonstrator, along with the reporting schedules, meant we delivered on what was most important to us commercially – this, in turn, enabled us to acquire a client and close further funding.”Imtiaz Shams, CEO, Flox