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[Herald Interview] Raising the bar of ethical farming, startup offers ‘disruptive’ agritech

ULikeKorea set to enter Australia, UAE with bio capsule system for livestock

ULikeKorea is a livestock health care startup that has introduced a first-of-its-kind bio capsule designed to lodge inside a cow’s first stomach and stay there to monitor the animal’s food and drug intake, real-time core body temperature and breeding cycle for quality meat production.

The company became one of the eight winning candidates in the third SoftBank Innovation Program that took place in June, 2018, as a promising agritech firm in the “disrupt” category.

There have been necklace and ear-clip type livestock health monitoring devices, but uLikeKorea’s is the first that goes inside a cow’s body. This prevents the device from external shock and damage. ULikeKorea anticipates to produce varying sizes of its LiveCare bio capsule for camels, pigs and sheeps.

SoftBank in May 2019 picked up uLikeKorea’s LiveCare bio capsules for exclusive commercialization rights in Australia. 

ULikeKorea CEO Kim Hee-jin with cattle. (uLikeKorea)
ULikeKorea CEO Kim Hee-jin with cattle. (uLikeKorea)

“Livestock health care is directly related to human health,” said Kim Hee-jin, the co-founder and CEO of uLikeKorea, in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“Cows are often given steroids for artificial plumping, or given excessive antibiotics. With our LiveCare bio capsule, what a cow takes is recorded and monitored for ethical farming,” Kim said.

Kim, who has a doctorate in computer engineering from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, founded uLikeKorea with her husband in 2012. In the initial phase, uLikeKorea experimented with plastic cylindrical containers before successfully developing and launching the biofriendly sugarcane capsule 12 centimeters in length and 2.5 centimeters in diameter.

Kim said the internet of things device inside the capsule measures the biometric data of a cow over 300 times a day and relays that in real time to a farmer’s computer or mobile app through its partner, SK Telecom’s wireless network.

As of July, uLikeKorea has amassed 500 million biometric data points from the more than 20,000 cattle fitted with LiveCare. Those data points have been analyzed by artificial intelligence software to create markers for some 40 types of livestock diseases including foot-and-mouth disease, sepsis and mastitis.

Kim vouched for 98 percent accuracy of the diagnosis given by uLikeKorea’s artificial intelligence program.

The LiveCare’s battery life is good to cover a cattle’s life span of three to five years, according to the firm.

“It takes time to convince the local farmers of the benefits this capsule would bring,” Kim said, when asked to tell some of the difficulties she ran into when starting her business.

“‘What do you know more about cows than me?’ is the most common reception we received from senior farmers,” she said. 

ULikeKorea CEO Kim Hee-jin holds up LiveCare capsules. (uLikeKorea)
ULikeKorea CEO Kim Hee-jin holds up LiveCare capsules. (uLikeKorea)

Precision monitoring of a cow’s reproductive processes is also a crucial point of business.

“It’s an age when cattle are raised by artificial intelligence,” said CEO Kim, “We are ready to enter the global market including the US, Brazil, Australia, Japan, US and other key markets.”

With SoftBank, uLikeKorea expects to give LiveCare to some 100,000 cows in Australia within 2019. Kim anticipated that the deal in with Australia could grow to cover the neighboring New Zealand market.

Australia has the world’s seventh-largest number of livestock cattle, at around 26 million. According to Meat & Livestock Australia, the public authority of the country promoting red meat, Australia is the third-biggest beef producer in the world.

SoftBank predicted uLikeKorea has a potential market value of approximately $850 million, Kim said.

US market researcher ReportLinker forecast that the worldwide livestock monitoring and caring market would grow 17.8 percent annually, reaching $4.8 billion by 2021. Global cattle population marked over 1 billion in 2019.

Apart from the Australian market, uLikeKorea is catering to Japanese wagyu beef farms in Hokkaido, Japan. The company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Danish government in September 2018, and is preparing to establish an EU headquarters that will target business in 17 European nations.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (