New Zealand agtech startup Halter has raised $29 million in Series B funding for its tech helping dairy farmers get to know their cows a little better, while also teaching the animals to herd themselves.
Founded by Craig Piggott, the startup provides GPS-enabled collars for cows that use sound and vibrations to guide the livestock, and allow farmers to set and move virtual ‘fences’.
Users can even herd their cows remotely, meaning they show up to the milking shed right on schedule.
At the same time, the collars gather data on each individual cow, offering insight into their health, wellbeing and behaviour.
According to Piggott, the system can alert farmers that a cow is in heat, calving or lame before they show any visible signs.
“For a farmer it means a whole lot less work,” he tells SmartCompany.
Farmers can also be more precise in meeting the needs of each animal, which can lead to an uptick in milk production.
The round was led by Aussie VC Blackbird Ventures, and also included contributions from existing investors DCVC, Promus Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures and Peter Beck, the founder of New Zealand satellite and aerospace tech company Rocket Lab.
Beck is also on the board of the startup, and Sam Wong — Blackbird’s partner heading up the New Zealand office — is also joining as part of this round.
Piggot doesn’t disclose any revenue growth figures, but he does reveal that the startup has been onboarding new commercial farms at a rate of one per week.
“It’s definitely growing, and growing at a pretty quick rate,” he says.
Field of expertise
This startup is at least partly designed to address the challenge of a huge labour shortage in dairy farming, which means farmers work incredibly long hours, seven days a week, Piggott explains.
There’s also increasing pressure to produce as much as possible to cater to a growing population, and to also farm in a way that’s efficient, profitable and environmentally friendly.
All of that can take a toll on farmers’ mental health.
“There are so many facets to the problem,” the founder says.
“We wanted a solution that would solve them all.”
And these are problems Piggott is intimately familiar with, having grown up on his family’s dairy farm.
He left to study engineering, and later secured a job as a mechanical engineer at Rocket Lab, where he was introduced to the world of startups and — crucially — all the possibilities of VC funding.
His boss at the time, Peter Beck, was always “super supportive” of Piggott’s entrepreneurial endeavours. In fact, as well as being an early investor, he also sits on the board of directors.
“He’s been an amazing mentor to us since day one,” Piggott says.
Of course, the founder’s family have also welcomed the tech, and are now happy Halter customers. They haven’t even demanded a family discount, he laughs.
Halter is moooving fast
Now he has a significant chunk of capital in his pocket, Piggott is turning his attention to hiring.
He’s looking to bring in about 100 people across the engineering, product and go-to-market teams, to support the startup as it continues to scale in New Zealand, and overseas.
And this founder is thinking big. Initially, he has his sights set on the Australian, South African and European markets, he says.
But, the long-term plan is targeting every cow on every dairy farm, globally.
There’s an opportunity to do things differently, he notes. One day, the idea of farming without the Halter system would be “unfathomable”, he says.
“The ultimate vision is that if you’ve got a dairy cow, it should have a collar on it.”