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Ups and downs for past 43North champs

In the world of venture capital, some investments pan out, and others don't.

Witness the example of two past grand prize winners of the 43North business plan competition, SomaDetect and ASi.

SomaDetect, which took home the $1 million prize in 2017, said it is installing its milk monitoring systems at 28 farms over the next four months. The installations represent the next step toward commercializing its product.

The first installation is taking place at Cornell University, where the company conducted a seven-month commercial validation and data collection study. SomaDetect, from Fredericton, New Brunswick, makes equipment that allows farmers to conduct a real-time analysis of the milk produced by their cows.

SomaDetect, which has 24 employees, will install its sensors at 28 "early adopter" dairy farms across New York, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

"Over the next six months, our algorithms will get better and better, and we will be working to maximize the value and benefits of this technology for our dairy farmers," said Bethany Deshpande, SomaDetect's CEO.

SomaDetect’s system of sensors can help farmers keep close track of the health of their herds by measuring the content of the milk produced by each cow. That data could help farmers quickly detect illnesses in individual cows and also allow them to monitor the fat and protein content of the milk produced by their herd, along with levels of antibiotics and hormones within the milk.

SomaDetect will install its milk sensors on 28 farms. (Provided photo)

Not only does that data give dairy producers a clearer picture about the composition of their herd’s milk, but it also allows SomaDetect to build a database that could be used by the animal health industry, company officials believe.

Meanwhile, ASi Inc., the winner of the first-ever 43North contest, in 2014, never managed to make its machine parts-making machine work. And now, it’s officially delinquent on a loan it received from an Erie County Industrial Development Agency affiliate.

ASi won 43North with its pitch centered on a parst-making machine that it thought could make components faster and cheaper than conventional methods. Now it has been declared delinquent on a $250,000 loan that it received from the IDA's Regional Development Corp. affiliate in 2015. With interest, ASi now owes nearly $280,000, or $30,000 more than it borrowed, and the prospects for repayment are questionable.

“We’re in the process of trying to work out the loan,” said Gerald Manhard, the agency’s chief lending officer.

The machine’s developer folded. Another company, Indiana-based NIBCO, acquired the equipment, but sold the machine to ASi in 2012 after failing to make it work successfully and giving up on the process.

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