Food diagnostics test developed in wake of horse meat scandal secures growth funding

AltraTech, a food diagnostics business, has banked €900,000 to help with the development of its high sensitivity species-specific identification device.

Former Kernel Capital entrepreneur-in-residence Tim Cummins has returned to the firm to secure venture funding for his new business.

Alongside Brian O’Farrell, Cummins set up AltraTech in 2013 to produce a single-use portable semiconductor test kit for use in the food and agri-sector.

The business is looking to capitalise on a market which has seen its fair share of scandal arising from the use of horse meat in supermarkets and restaurants. AltraTech says it is aiming to be the first entry into the market providing an on-site and in-line deposable DNA diagnostics kit – reducing the wait time on results from two-to-five days to 30 minutes.

Also joining Irish venture capital firm Kernel Capital, investing through the Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund, in the deal are Enterprise Ireland and the company founders themselves.

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Cummins contextualises the deal by saying the food testing market is worth $3 billion, but is dominated by older protein-based assays which take longer.

‘Our BeadCAP technology directly addresses problems such as the recent “horse-burger” and pig-animal-protein food adulteration crises which saw food producers and retailers being faced with quarantine or re-call decisions, risk of reputational damage and loss of sales,’ he adds.

‘It will enable producers to do real-time testing and make instant production and dispositioning decisions. We are delighted with this funding which will enable us to add up to seven new employees over the next year to begin field-trials of the technology.’

Prior to setting up AltraTech, Cummins founded fellow Kernel Capital portfolio business Chipsensors, before selling it to NASDAQ firm Silicon Labs four years later in 2010. The new business started at the University of Limerick when Cummins teamed up with Tara Dalton to unite semiconductor and microfluidic experience.

Kernel Capital partner Ger Goold comments, ‘There is a huge un-met need for timely, accurate on-site DNA food diagnostics.

‘The promoters have a strong track record of generating and commercialising world-class IP across both semiconductors and life sciences and AltraTech’s solution promises to be highly disruptive to this growth sector.’

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.