Techion Group might comprise ''a little team in a tin shed in
South Dunedin'' but the animal parasite diagnostics company
is making waves internationally.
The company has partnered UK-based supermarket chain
Sainsbury's to run a two-year international research and
development project, rolling out on-farm technology to manage
Sainsbury's will support the cost of implementing Techion's
technology, the FECPAK (g2) system, both in New Zealand and
in the UK.
The project team also includes meat processors Alliance Group
(New Zealand), Dunbia, and Randall Parker Foods (UK).
Techion founder Greg Mirams said the collaboration was
''still a bit mind-blowing'', particularly given Sainsbury's
backed the small company when it had only a working
prototype, and did not have a finished product.
He was confident the project would have a significant effect
on farmers' profit and efficiency both in New Zealand and in
Parasites were the largest influencing factor on animal
performance after nutrition, Mr Mirams said.
''The problem of increasing drug resistance by parasites to
the drenches designed to kill them means we have to be
smarter on how and when we use them, so it's important for
farmers to make use of new technologies to make better
decisions,'' he said.
Using information generated straight from the paddock, the
FECPAK (g2) system gave farmers data to make informed
parasite management decisions, increasing farm profits, lamb
performance and reducing treatment costs.
They could also choose who received their data and it could
be reported as industry monitoring.
Canterbury farmer Tony Plunkett, who has already signed up
for the project, believed it was an exciting concept.
''Testing the old way meant there was too much human error
and it was taking too long. We're using smart technology much
more these days.
''Techion's system is user-friendly and puts accurate
information at our fingertips so we can make a decision on
the day whether we need to drench or not,'' he said.
With a background in farming and farm management systems, Mr
Mirams started Fecpak 20 years ago.
The business was sold to PGG Wrightson in 2006 and he
''bought the ashes back'' in 2010 and Techion Group was
The business was ''tiny'' and core staff numbers ranged from
six to eight.
Because it had been in the industry for 20 years, including
working in Europe, it had a lot of networks.
Mr Mirams met Sainsbury's agriculture manager Phil Hambling
at the International Sheep Veterinary Congress in Rotorua
A few months later, Mr Hambling asked Techion to apply to
Sainsbury's 1.2 million research and development fund, which
was open to all its primary produce suppliers.
Two projects were funded in lamb, the other was breeding
sheep for resistance to parasites, showing parasite
management was clearly a concern for the company, Mr Mirams
Although he declined to say how much funding the project was
allocated, it was a portion of the 1.2 million.
An operations manager had been employed in Europe and the
company was now trying to ''desperately make more product''.
More staff would definitely be taken on but it was important
to stay focused and manage the growth, he said.
Although the project was all about sheep, Techion was working
on validation of the system for the likes of deer, horses and
The equine industry alone could be bigger globally than
Mr Mirams' vision had always been for the company to be the
global player in animal diagnostics, particularly parasitism,
and there was no reason why it could not achieve that, he
The domestic market was very important but the international
opportunities were huge.
''It's just one step at a time. Manage the opportunities, get
your development right, get the customer experience good and
move on from there.
''We need to get farmers on the programme, we want them to
take the technology up. We think there's a great future,'' he
It was a subscription model and there was a commercial
product for veterinary practices and laboratories.
Techion had tended to fly under the radar - ''we just get on
and do stuff'' - like many other companies in Dunedin.
Mr Mirams was proud its equipment, from electronics to
plastic mouldings, was designed, manufactured and built in
To be in close proximity to those businesses it utilised was
very useful, while modern communication enabled the company
to be run from Dunedin ''very successfully''.
Techion was also quite closely linked with the University of
The FECPAK system used a patented particle accumulation
technology owned and supplied by Menixis Ltd.
Menixis was founded by Mr Mirams, colleague Dr Stephen
Sowerby and the university.