The History of Healthy Cow
Every startup has a story on why and how it came about. Here’s the story of Healthy Cow…
Healthy Cow is an innovative agri-biotech startup focused on helping dairy farmers improve cow health and well-being through innovative, science-based preventative solutions. In doing so, Healthy Cow can enhance their cows’ productivity, save them money, and decrease their reliance on antibiotics.
The founders, Louis Hui and Richard Strafehl recognized their shared interest in dairy, molecular diagnostics, and systems biology, all over drinks at Ein-stein Beirhalle in downtown Toronto. With Dr. Edward Robb’s experience as a veterinarian and nutritionist, the founding team was complete and Healthy Cow was formed in 2014.
The founding team has a shared motivation based on their diverse experiences. Louis Hui is a driven entrepreneur and former Venture Capitalist. In 2008, China saw a food safety incident that left Louis horrified. Milk was adulterated with a toxic industrial compound, melamine, to artificially boost the apparent protein content. The consequence of melamine accumulation resulted in crystallization in the kidneys of infants. Over 300,000 children are suffering from lifelong health complications. As a father, Louis was well aware of the pain and helplessness many across the country would have experienced. He felt the need to get to the root of the problem, and by learning more about the dairy industry, he identified a fundamental systemic problem - when cows are healthy, they will naturally produce healthier, better quality milk but when they’re not, the quality of their milk decreases and can lead to situations like the melamine crisis.
Louis noticed a lack of innovation in the animal healthcare sector of the dairy industry. For the last 30 years, large pharmaceutical companies have been selling, reselling, and repositioning the same antibiotics and hormones for dairy producers to use. Based on his research on dairy cows, he saw an opportunity for Healthy Cow to develop cutting-edge solutions that could help dairy producers keep cows healthier and prevent diseases.
Richard Strafehl has an extensive background in agriculture and biotechnology. His interest in the dairy industry surged after years of developing diagnostic and testing technologies to screen for bacteria in milk for the dairy industry. He has long been a proponent of Systems Biology, which looks at the larger picture and the interconnections and the interactions between nutrition, bacteria, metabolism and the immune system. Richard’s unique perspective and thinking resulted in the founding principles of the company.
Dr. Edward Robb’s experience developing tools to diagnose, prevent, and treat diseases in animals had him constantly searching for avant-garde technologies. Having played a key role in developing and launching some of the top-selling livestock antibiotics & hormones (Naxcel, Excede, Excenel, Spectramast, CIDRs, Improvac/vest), Ed understood the need for innovation in the industry well. The prospect of translating leading-edge early research into new tools that could improve bovine health, make dairy farming more sustainable, enhance consumer confidence in dairy products, and reduce antibiotic use was not one he could say no to – and thus, the core team was formed!
The trio is on a mission to improve the dairy industry in order to aid dairy producers to enhance the health and welfare of their herd.
Healthy Cow first collaborated with Dr. Ametaj at the University of Alberta’s Dairy Research Centre to further advance his early proof-of-concept studies on the microbiome and metabolome, and their applications to bovine reproductive health, and productivity. Using seed funding received from investment groups, grants, and interested dairy farmers, the first product, ProPreg™ was developed.
The team worked extensively with progressive dairy farmers to test ProPreg’s™ effectiveness. This was a multi-location field study involving more than 800 cows! Farmers were amazed by the benefits and became grass-root supporters. With these positive results, the development of a unique formulation to support probiotic engraftment (ensuring the probiotics stay and survive in the reproductive tract) and of the applicator system began. ProPreg™ was the end result - the first intravaginal blend of natural prebiotics and probiotics used to augment and maintain a healthy reproductive microbiome during the critical transition period of dairy cattle.
Most recently, Healthy Cow has begun showcasing ProPreg™ and engaging with multiple ag-accelerators, including the Creative Destruction Lab, FoodBytes, Food Systems 6, DFA Accelerator, Animal Health in the Heartland, Foodbytes with Rabobank, and Thrive by SVG Ventures. Healthy Cow has also established research and distribution partnerships with DFA (Dairy Farmers of America), Kent Nutrition Group, and EastGen Genetics, and is now launching ProPreg™ to the market with the aim of building a wide portfolio of products centered around managing and optimizing the cow’s immune system.