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Pioneering Sensor Technology Could Help Tackle Livestock Disease

Ross Kelly


Livestock disease

Working alongside the University of Strathclyde and CENSIS, Biotangents is developing an electrochemical sensing system to upgrade its on-farm testing equipment. 

A Penicuik-based veterinary diagnostics firm, Biotangents, is using pioneering tech which could help combat livestock disease and reduce the use of antibiotics in farming.

Working alongside the University of Strathclyde and CENSIS, the company is developing an electrochemical sensing system to upgrade its prototype on-farm testing equipment.

This kit is currently used to test for bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) and largely relies on individual interpretation of test results. However, this could be replaced by the updated technology, Biotengents believes. Specially-designed sensor systems have the potential to provide more definitive test results which could help to increase the accuracy of diagnosis.

Diagnostic test results for livestock diseases have historically taken anywhere up to one week to be returned from a central lab. Biotengents’ developed system can produce BVD test results on the same day – even potentially within one hour.

Dr Andy Hall-Ponselè, founder and Operations Director at Biotangents, said: “The management and treatment of infection is essential to helping cattle stay healthy, improving welfare, and ultimately making the industry more sustainable.  An accurate, speedy diagnosis is the first step in helping to limit the spread of diseases, such as BVD, which can be passed on by cows touching noses or sharing troughs.

“Five new infectious diseases are emerging each year, and many of these can be passed on to humans. By using our advanced Moduleic Sensing diagnostic platform, we aim to enable vets to identify and manage infectious diseases at the earliest possible opportunity and minimise their chances of spreading.”

Hall-Ponselè added: “Harnessing expertise from both CENSIS and the University of Strathclyde has been an invaluable step towards a fully automated diagnostic platform that can further enable vets in this respect and additionally reduce the need for unnecessary antibiotic treatment.”

Livestock disease costs the UK economy a staggering £1 billion per year in lost productivity and mitigation, researchers said. This represents a major issue for the industry at home and abroad. Common infections in dairy and beef cattle can cause serious immune suppression, bovine pneumonia and calf mortality.

Long-term, Biotangents said it is aiming for future iterations of the Moduleic Sensing system which could allow tests for a number of different infections and diseases to be carried out at the same time.

The firm recently secured £1.5 million in funding to further develop its technology, following a second round of fundraising.

Dr Stephen Milne, Business Development Manager at CENSIS, commented: “With one in 10 jobs in Scotland dependent on agriculture, sustainability is a crucial concern for the industry.

“Digital technology presents a significant opportunity for innovation and can be used by businesses throughout the sector to improve livestock welfare, lower the burden on farmers, and boost production. This project with Biotangents is just one example of how technology can be used to transform an entire process.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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