Startup Interview

  • [Startup Interview] CEO Nohkyum Kyeong of Animal Industry Data Korea, a domestic livestock-tech startup developing the digital healthcare solution ‘Farmsplan’
  • 창업원
  • 2022-10-30 20:29:15
  • 248

The company we will meet today is Animal Industry Data Korea, a livestock-tech company providing the farmsplan service which supports systematic farm operation for livestock based on AI and biotechnology. Animal Industry Data Korea provides a solution to identify the status of livestock through AI to help the understaffed livestock industry.

Let’s meet CEO Nohkyum Kyeong of Animal Industry Data Korea!

Can you briefly introduce Animal Industry Data Korea and yourself?

Hello, I am Nohkyum Kyeong, CEO of Animal Industry Data Korea. After graduating the School of Management Engineering at KAIST, I have gained years of experience in big data analysis while working at Allianz SE, ETRI, and SPREAD, an ETRI startup that I established myself. In November 2017, I established Animal Industry Data Korea, combining big data and livestock biotech, and have been creating a healthy livestock and One-health ecosystem.

Animal Industry Data Korea is a livestock-tech startup that uses deep technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, veterinary science, and genetics to drive technological innovation in the livestock industry. With the convergence of livestock and technology, we provide a solution to improve the difficulties that prevailed in existing livestock farms and realize One-Health for animals, humans, and the environment by reducing antibiotics and preventing infectious diseases.

Combining livestock and bio-tech using the previous experience with big data analysis sounds fresh. There aren’t many livestock-tech startups in Korea, so Animal Industry Data Korea will be able to improve the understaffed livestock industry using technology to prevent diseases and reduce antibiotics. Let’s take a closer look on how CEO Kyeong became interested in the livestock industry.

How did Animal Industry Data Korea decide on this idea as its startup product?

I tried looking for alternatives to solve the food shortage problem and satisfy customer needs through the convergence of the livestock industry and IT technology. In the future, 9 billion people will be living on Earth, and it has long been predicted that there will be a shortage of food and land in the future. Food shortages are already becoming a reality. In 2018, 30% of pigs in China died due to ASF, which led to the shortage of pork. In addition, animal feed prices are becoming a burden to farmers because of the exponential rise in grain prices caused by abnormal weather. There is also labor shortage due to the aging population. Many livestock farms now face the challenge of improving low productivity at a minimum cost.

In addition, I believe it was necessary to increase the competitiveness of domestic farms to meet the diverse customer needs. Customers not only want domestic and cheap meat, but also healthy and delicious meat. That’s why people buy Iberico pork instead of Korean pork, because Iberico pigs are known to grow healthy in the grassland. If the import tariffs are lowered, we can import high quality meat at a cheaper price, and domestic farms will have to compete in quality and also price. However, the current mortality rate of pigs in domestic farms is still high and it is costly to raise pigs because of antibiotics. Thus, I thought it was necessary to reduce the cost of raising pigs to lower consumer prices and supply healthy quality meat at the same time.

While settling SPREAD, the startup I founded, I was offered to work at a company that recommends makeup products or lunch boxes from analyzing human genes. At that company, I grew interested in bio data analysis technologies, which I thought was the future for the livestock industry. Because the livestock industry was far from technology and I had experience in big data analysis at SPREAD, I thought I could create high value by converging the industry and the big data analysis technology. A solution that can identify the status of livestock using blood will increase the productivity of farms and also satisfy customer needs of high quality meat. Also, this industry had high barriers to enter so no one at that time challenged to solve these problems.

So Animal Industry Data Korea was founded with the goal of improving the environment of domestic farms using CEO Kyeong’s big data analysis experience. Bio data analysis technology is not only useful for humans, but can also be applied to livestock to create a livestock healthcare system.

Animal Industry Data Korea uses AI instead of human experience to monitor the condition of livestock. AI is replacing humans in many areas, but how can it identify the livestock conditions better than the experienced farmers? Is it possible to manage a farm with only AI?

Experience often means professionalism, but it can also mean bias. Experienced farmers can see the conditions of livestock based on their experience, but since experience is not objective data it could lead to biased decisions. AI is not a replacement for humans, but rather a supplement for humans to make decisions based on data. People should still use their experience and senses, but also use AI to make non-biased decisions. Operating farms with only AI is a distant future when highly advanced robots emerge, and human experience and expertise are still key to farms.

Managing farms with experience is important, but could also be far from accuracy. Supplementing farms with AI can increase the accuracy and reduce the number of staff working in farms.

Can you explain more about ‘Farmsplan’?

Farmsplan is the most practical livestock healthcare solution that strengthens livestock immunity by optimizing the environment for each farms. Farmsplan provides four main services – care, live, manager, and eco.

Farmsplan Care monitors contagious animal diseases and analyzes immune system indicators, and provides customized veterinary solutions to farms. Animal Industry Data Korea is a state-certified livestock disease inspection agency that conducts reliable testing, and big data analysis experts recommends optimized programs depending on the state of the farms. Consequently, designated veterinarians visit farms to provide customized solutions.

Farmsplan Live is an AI solution that monitors livestock 24-7 through CCTVs installed in farms. Because one staff member manages thousands of pigs, there is often holes in management. Farmsplan Live identifies pigs using machine vision, thus reducing labor intensity.

Farmsplan Manager is a farm management program with big data analysis technology. One can take a picture of a handwritten paper and log it in the program. In addition, efficient data management is possible because the program automatically updates the status of the farm.

Farmsplan Eco is a solution that measures the conditions of the farm such as temperature, humidity, and presence of harmful gases inside the farm. The manager can check the conditions without having to enter the farm.

Animal Industry Data Korea currently manages about 200,000 pigs with the Farmsplan service, and is trying to increase the number of customer farms to preemptively respond to livestock diseases and health conditions.

The Farmsplan service is a comprehensive digital livestock healthcare solution divided into several services – Care, Live, Eco, and Manager. With this service, farmers can monitor the health conditions of livestock and also provide a customized veterinarian solution to reduce livestock mortality. It is amazing that livestock can be managed without a staff member using technologies like AI. With these technologies, livestock dying of contagious diseases will decrease and the problem of understaffed farms can be solved.

Using the Farmsplan service can help reduce the mortality rate, so how effective is it in preventing contagious diseases like ASF?

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal disease in the pig industry. It is difficult to detect infected pigs because the symptoms in the early stage of the disease are not noticeable. In addition, the incubation period is very short and the fatality rate can reach 100%. However, due to many variations of the disease, there are still no vaccines and early detection and preventive measures are the only countermeasures against this virus.

The ASF virus infects the pig’s main immune cells and reduces the immune function. Thus, if the pig has a high immune system, it has high resistance to the viruses in the early stage and can reduce the spread of the virus. Animal Industry Data Korea measures the immune status of pigs and provides solutions to strengthen the resistance of pigs to diseases. Preventing the spread of bacterial and viral infections through immunity management is a powerful counterattack against the latest viruses with many variations. In addition, AI can detect the early symptoms of ASF and preemptively respond to diseases.

It is impossible to prevent ASF completely, but with Animal Industry Data Korea’s immune status monitoring technology, we will be able to prevent the spread of disease in advance. In addition, management is essential to respond to the mutation in viruses, so AI will be able to support immediate response.

Smart livestock businesses are being introduced. What are the differences and advantages from existing livestock businesses?

The main difference of smart and existing livestock businesses is ‘data and automation’. Data in the smart livestock industry is different from data in the old livestock industry in many ways, including collection and utilization scope, and the form of data. In addition, data evolved from a passive role of providing history to an active role of decision making. Among the various tasks required to raise livestock, the simple tasks are automated in the smart livestock industry. The advantage of such industry is that livestock management is much more systematic and efficient with data and automation.

As CEO Kyeong said, the introduction of the smart livestock industry will bring different aspects into the current industry. In addition to automating tasks, data will play a more important role in realizing more active and efficient work.

This technology sounds suitable for the post COVID-19 farm management, and could also be introduced abroad! How are you developing the business globally?

Because countries abroad raise similar animals like pigs, cows, and chickens, our Farmsplan service can be applied regardless of the country. In fact, I received an interest to apply the service in developing countries with low livestock production and performance. Farms in some countries are already applying the Farmsplan technology. Currently, a consortium has been formed to apply the Farmsplan solution to a dairy farm in Uttar Pradesh, India, and will also be applied to a farm in Malaysia using the chicken and pig AI model.

In livestock advanced countries as well, facilities are well automated, but there is still no corporate control system that owns many farms due to the labor-intensive management methods. The Farmsplan service can control the farms in different areas and check the status of livestock without actually visiting the farm. It can provide an efficient IT system and a premium concept of healthy livestock to distributors and consumers.

If the Farmsplan service is globalized and applied, it can help not only domestic livestock industries but countries with slow AI development. This will become possible with the data collected and technology developed by Animal Industry Data Korea, and the Farmsplan service will soon be used around the world.

Congratulations on your recent selection of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s future unicorn development project. What are the benefits of being selected and advantages in relation to global business?

Companies selected for the future unicorn development project receive up to 10 billion won in credit guarantees, investment attraction, and legal advices from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Information and Communication Industry Promotion Agency. In addition, through overseas specialized programs that use U.S., Singapore, and Vietnam as overseas bases, we are planning on expanding the Farmsplan service overseas.

It is great to receive funding as a government business. I hope this opportunity serves as a foundation for expanding overseas.

How should we further develop the livestock healthcare system in Korea?

It is necessary to address many regulations so that private companies can freely research and commercialize the research results.

It seems like the government is slowly relaxing these regulations, so I hope it will be resolved in the near future.

One word to KAIST Students who are interested in starting a business?

People say that the startup item is important when starting a business. However, it is more important to have willpower and the ability to execute to develop an item into something that we need. Even if it’s an item that someone has previously tried and failed, with timing and different methods, the item may become successful. Even if it’s an item that someone else is already succeeding in, it can be improved into a better item. If it’s an item that no one has challenged or supports, one can create a new market and trend by hanging on to it till the end. The most important thing is to continue to work hard. Animal Industry Data Korea is also continuously trying, executing, and growing.

The item itself is important, but the methods are also important. Having it in thoughts only is meaningless, so one should execute their thoughts and go through trial and error to develop.

What are some main accomplishments after starting the business?

Animal Industry Data Korea has attracted about 7 billion won since its establishment. After being selected as TIPS in 2018, we attracted Series A investment from Naver, Woori Bank, Korea Omega Investment Finance, and Timewise Investment, and also succeeded in attracting impact funds by meeting the UN’s sustainable development standards. In addition, Farmsplan proudly won second place in the Ag-tech category of the ‘Virtual Pitch Competition’. Recently, we completed the ‘Data Dam’ project of the Ministry of Science and Technology, creating and applying pig, cow, chicken AI analysis models based on the 400,000 livestock AI dataset.

As CEO Kyeong said, Animal Industry Data Korea is recognized for its technology in Korea and abroad. We look forward to even more accomplishments!

What is the ultimate goal of Animal Industry Data Korea?

Animal Industry Data Korea’s goal is to create a single standard farm breeding platform that can be applied to farms in Korea and abroad. From livestock advanced countries to developing countries, there are many forms of farms depending on the degree of development of the industry. Due to the various forms of farms, it is difficult to control contagious diseases around the world, thus threatening human health. COVID-19, which has spread around the world, is also a common transmission of diseases from animals to humans. We hope to develop our healthcare service into a standard platform that can be applied to all farms around the world, control diseases, and contribute to One-Health.

Animal Industry Data Korea is progressing for the development of the livestock industry around the world. Since it has become difficult to continue the livestock industry with traditional methods, Animal Industry Data Korea has been providing livestock healthcare, management, and solutions using AI technology and data analysis technology. It is important to prevent the spread of diseases among animals, because it can also spread to humans. The Farmsplan service allows farmers to check the conditions of livestock remotely, prevent diseases, and solve food shortage problems through systematic management. In the future, we hope Farmsplan becomes a standardized platform that presents new standards for the global livestock industry. We look forward to the day Animal Industry Data Korea’s dreams become a reality.

This was CEO Nohkyum Kyeong of Animal Industry Data Korea!