This week we bring you the story of SomaDetect. Their CEO/Co-Founder Bethany Deshpande explains how her company is using high-tech hardware and deep-learning software to make sure dairy farmers are producing the highest quality product.
Could you explain what SomaDetect is and how it works?
SomaDetect is an in-line sensor that measures milk quality (including fat, protein, somatic cell counts, progesterone, and antibiotics) and data. These insights enable dairy farmers to assess every critical indicator of dairy quality, from every cow, at every milking.
The SomaDetect system consists of a hardware system that fits into farmers’ milking equipment. It uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to pull key information from milk in real time. SomaDetect doesn’t use chemicals or cartridges, and it doesn’t waste milk. The results are extremely quick (results in seconds, not minutes) and incredibly accurate.
SomaDetect provides dairy farmers with the information they need to make the best possible milk.
How did your team create SomaDetect?
My dad and I have always been two peas in a pod. He’s an inventor and a biophysicist, and I grew up watching him experiment with light scattering technologies. He actually discovered accidentally that this technology he was working with was capable of measuring fat content and somatic cell counts in milk! I spent the first decade of my career working in entrepreneurship and web design, and then my dad asked for my input on the business end of things with SomaDetect.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve gone from being able to measure two features of milk quality to being able to measure five, and we’ve increased accuracy significantly in the process. Before SomaDetect, individual farmers would have had to add reagents and chemicals to milk and take samples to the lab in order to make the measurements that SomaDetect has completely automated directly on the farm. Now, we’re incorporating experts in machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision to our team, which has grown from three to eleven people very quickly.
It sounds like you guys are growing quickly! What was it that attracted you to the Corporate Accelerator?
As you can imagine, it’s not easy to find accelerator programs that specialize in dairy. As a field, dairy is massively important but often forgotten. In this program, we’re excited to be working alongside other companies who work in dairy and who know the industry, know farmers, and can share information!
We love the Sprint Accelerator — it’s a great program. SomaDetect is IoT for Dairy, which aligns perfectly with this accelerator. I really appreciate how Doug and Ari approach the program by asking, “How can we most help your company?” DFA does the same as well. It’s incredible to find that level of support.
Have there been any exciting developments for SomaDetect during these past few weeks of program?
Yes! Just last week, we installed a set of sensors at Cornell, which was a big move for our business. We’ve hired three people in March alone, including a highly experienced business professional and an engineer who also has a lot of relevant skills. These hires are fantastic for our business, and we’re excited to add people to our team who have such a great background in this field. In the meantime, we’re also working on a pilot with farmers in New York State and Atlantic Canada!
That’s so exciting! Can you share a little more about your experience with corporate sponsor DFA?
At SomaDetect, we’ve always considered ourselves a farmer-first company. Our priority is on working with farmers and providing them with the best product and the most value we can. DFA shares this mission, so working with them — a farmer-first dairy co-op — is an amazing fit.
One of the highlights of our time in the program with DFA was our trip to DFA’s new headquarters. We got to hear a talk by Monica Massey, the Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at DFA. Seeing a woman with her talents at that level of the company is incredibly inspiring and encouraging to me as a female CEO of a dairy company!
Another thing is that people aren’t usually connected with the other farmers who help produce their food. But when you can get to know the people who produce your food and hear the stories of their families or their grandparents who started the farm they work today, you discover that it’s such an incredible industry. I love being part of it and getting to know more and more farmers as we grow.