The agriculture technology space is currently experiencing rapid growth and innovation, driven by a convergence of several factors, including rising global food demand, environmental sustainability concerns, and advancements in digital technologies. Agtech encompasses a wide range of solutions aimed at improving efficiency, productivity, and sustainability across the agricultural value chain. From precision farming and smart irrigation systems to vertical farming and robotics, agtech innovations are revolutionizing traditional farming practices.

In this week’s startup spotlight, we explore the journey of Catie McVey, the Founder and CEO of OsRostrum Inc., as she spearheads an innovative solution in this field. Utilizing patented 3D scanning, computer vision and machine-learning technology, OsRostrum can analyze a cow’s physical attributes, including facial characteristics and hoof morphology. Through this process, OsRostrum identifies cues that indicate a cow’s genetic resilience to environmental stressors and susceptibility to injury and disease. OsRostrum aims to bring this technology directly to farmers so they can gain valuable support for the daily management of their herds and can make informed decisions regarding breeding strategies for long-term herd health and productivity enhancements. For this innovative approach to livestock care, McVey recently won 3rd place at the IdeaFest pitch competition hosted by The Launch Place and is a finalist vying for the spring 2024 SEED Grant at NC IDEA. ​​Discover what sets OsRostrum apart in this week’s exclusive startup spotlight featuring insights from Founder Catie McVey.

Q1: Could you tell us a little bit about your company?

There’s so much ancestral wisdom in agriculture, and not all of it has been translated to modern agriculture. OsRostrum is a phenomics company – we’re using cutting edge computer vision and machine learning algorithms to teach a computer to analyze a cow’s conformation just like our grandad’s. Livestock judging coaches taught us, and made that data more available for use in genetic selection and precision management schemes.

Q2: What inspired you to start your own company?

I grew up in the horse world, where people would just casually look at a horse’s face and try to guess their personality. Those predictions were never perfect, but they often seemed uncannily insightful to have virtually no scientific research behind it. Turns out to study those hypotheses rigorously, you need an awful lot of novel computer vision and statistical techniques, and somewhere along the way of 16 years studying these behaviors, I realized how useful these algorithms could be beyond the walls of the ivory towers and for a lot more than just facial inference.

Q3: What previous experiences influence your role today?

I was out in California during the terrible fires. For over a week the sun was just a blood red smudge in the sky, and so much ash rained down from the sky it killed my tomato plants. As the sixth generation in my family to grow up in the rolling foothills surrounded by hardwood and pine forests, I couldn’t just shirk those apocalyptic scenes off. It made me realize that farmers are on the front line of climate change, and that I wanted to be out there with them fighting for our cows. I believe deeply in the Land Grant mission, but entrepreneurship seemed like the most expedient way to get tech solutions into the hands of farmers that needed them.

Q4: What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered as a startup founder this far, and how did you overcome them?

The funding landscape is tough for agtech. Especially for livestock companies. My company’s unofficial motto is “there’s nothing fast about a cow,” especially their data, so I’ve had to get a bit creative when it comes to extending my runway. But the gritty bootstrappy route suits me, and I’ve been pretty dang lucky with non dilutive grants – hopefully that holds till I get to revenue later this year.

Q5: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?

The whole startup ecosystem here in RTP/NC has been amazing – super supportive of first time and female founders. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave California to do a startup, but I can’t imagine having made it this far anywhere else.

Q6: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and future startup founders based on your own experiences and lessons learned?

Don’t bother with jerks, it’s never worth it. Look for the helpers.