FREDERICTON– New Brunswick startup SomaDetect’s CEO Bethany Deshpande says the company will still have a presence in the province, despite moving a big part of the company’s operations to New York state for at least a year.
Earlier in October, SomaDetect took first place and the $1-million prize at the 43North competition in Buffalo. It also includes office space and mentorship at 43North’s incubator. As a condition of the win SomaDetect has to move a substantial portion of their business to Buffalo for at least one year.
“The reason that we applied for 43North, in the beginning, is we saw it as a fantastic opportunity for a soft landing,’ Deshpande told Huddle. “To open our first U.S. office and gain some of those really key resources as we expand our business.”
SomaDetect is an in-line sensor that measures key indicators of dairy-quality from cows at every milking. This allows farmers to find out if there are any issues or deficiencies with the milk early on, which could indicate that a cow is sick. Though the company got its start by working with dairy farmers in New Brunswick, Deshpande says it’s now time for the company to scale-up and expand to other markets. The United States is a huge one. Deshpande says the state of New York has more cows than all of Canada.
In Canadian dairy farming, we have a lot of farms that are between 100 and 200 cows, which is great,” she says. “But you go into the states and you get onto these farms with 5,000 cows or more and it’s a whole other beast. It’s a whole other type of operation. New York gives us the opportunity to figure that out.
“We knew that when we started selling, when we really started moving our product, that we would want to have offices elsewhere. That’s a big goal.”
Deshpande says the company is still working out logistics like visas that are required to work in Buffalo. Though some staff will be moving down on a full-time basis next year, the Fredericton office will remain.
“The goal is to always keep our Fredericton office, so we’ll have some of our members that will still be working out of Fredericton,” says Deshpande.
She says SomaDectect will still have key partnerships and relationships in New Brunswick that are important to maintain.
“We have about 25 percent of the New Brunswick dairy farmers signed up to use our system, and this is such incredible support from the local dairy farming community. Those are all really key things that it will take us years to rebuild this in a second location.”
The company plans to hire around 25 people next year, including sales people, engineers, developers, dairy-specific technicians and support staff. Deshpande says a least a few of these positions will be in Fredericton.
The 43North win will also help SomaDetect launch a pilot program to measure how well its device works on these bigger New York farms next March. If the trial goes well SomaDetect will start selling the devices commercially in May or early summer.
“The pilot gives us a chance to be on farms, to work closely with farmers as we finish up any of the technology and hopefully convert those to sales. If they try our system, if they like it, we would love for them to be customers.”