SoundTalks, the Leuven tech spin-off of KU Leuven and the University of Milan, is broadening its scope as of this year. If the focus of this scale-up from the start in 2011 was on monitoring the respiratory health of pigs through cough sounds, CEO Dries Berckmans and his team will now go for an extension of the system to chickens.
The SoundTalks system is focused on animal health and welfare. The German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim believes in this technology, which led to an investment of 5.2 million euros within the capital increase of a total of 6 million euros at SoundTalks. Meanwhile, livestock farmers and veterinarians from all over the world are using the system. They use a microphone and an algorithm behind it to detect any respiratory problems in pigs.
From now on also chickens
Dries Berckmans: "We currently have a unique position with SoundTalks. We rely on years of extensive research within KU Leuven. This gives us as a company an interesting lead over the competition. Livestock farmers from the US, Mexico and China, among others, keep their livestock healthy thanks to our technology. Naturally, we also want to fulfil this pioneering role in other areas. That's why we are now also focusing on chicken farming.
No copy-paste story
"Growing chickens isn't that easy. The problems faced by the chicken grower are of a different nature than those faced by pigs. But thanks to an intense research phase, we understand the problem setting down to the smallest detail. This allows us to adapt our system perfectly to the needs of this new segment and we also succeed in quickly detecting health and welfare issues in chickens", it says.
The expansion costs are significant, especially in the field of research. That is why it is important for SoundTalks to be able to count on the subsidy of VLAIO (1.5 million euros) for the research project. "Their contribution will enable us to take a larger view of the project and dig deeper into the matter, which will have its benefits later on in the product development phase. Because with better preparation, we minimize risks at any later stage," says Berckmans. "VLAIO's support also gives us greater credibility as a young company, which means that external investors will be able to come up with extra budgets more quickly. We are therefore convinced that this new monitoring tool will benefit both us and our partners". The total investment of this expansion operation amounts to 3.9 million euros.
Source: Made In Vlaams-Brabant
Translated by Leuven MindGate