Glasgow firm helps African farmers diagnose livestock disease

A mobile phone app designed by a group of former Strathclyde University students is helping thousands of African farmers to diagnose diseases in their livestock.

The VetAfrica App, developed by Glasgow-based tech firm Cojengo, allows farmers to spot conditions that can blight cattle herds using just their smartphones.

Cojengo, which is being supported by Microsoft East Africa, has been able to roll out the app to thousands of farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda.

Such is the take-up rate of the app among farming communities, the company is now working in partnership with Obi Mobiles, which distributes cheap but high spec smartphones across the developing world.

Craig Taylor, who worked on the idea with a group of vets as a computer science undergraduate, said: “The original concept came from a student project – the brief was to apply technology in the African market. I tested it in Ethiopia and saw the issues and challenges they faced with livestock disease. But I graduated and didn’t do anything with it until a few years later.”

Cojengo was formed in 2013 and in just two years is already part of a network including NGOs, veterinary companies, charities, and of course Microsoft. Its app is prebundled on the Obi Mobiles, giving it greater access to the communities affected.

The product provides faster access to professional veterinary assistance in local areas and stores data for compliance, disease surveillance and monitoring. It can also proivide advice on which drugs will most effectively tackle a range of livestock illnesses.

Farmers are charged a dollar per month to use the app, which may not sound like a lot, but Craig explains: “If we can do this en masse, the potential market is so big.”

It is also sound economic sense for even relatively low paid farmers to invest in the application.

“If somebody can save the life of their animal, they save up to $1,000. With that they can get their child to school, and also it’s more milk for the farmer,” Craig adds.

The app is currently limited to livestock cows but Cojengo is exploring ways to extend it out to crops, and to the human health market tackling the likes of Ebola and HIV.

Craig has also recently filed a patent that would see temperature monitoring included as part of its product base.

And following a recent trip to the International Society for Disease Surveillance in the US, the company is also exploring new markets including India, South America, the Middle East and Afghanistan.