Canterbury entrepreneur develops tech that could help fight diseases like Mycoplasma bovis

A Canterbury entrepreneur has developed a ground-breaking biosecurity system that can track the spread of diseases like Mycoplasma bovis.

Ryan Higgs is harnessing the same "network" technology the CIA uses to hunt terrorists, to track vehicles as they go from farm to farm.

"As far as we're aware, this is completely unique - using these visitor records to create an intelligence system," he says.

His company, OnSide, helps farmers track visits to farms. The app prompts every visitor to sign in using the GPS on their mobile phones.

Mr Higgs has discovered he can create a network with that data - tracking vehicles, from farm to farm, during biosecurity outbreaks. He can keep an eye on everyone, from bank managers to cattle trucks.

"What the system would tell officials is which properties are most likely to have the disease, and so they could strategically go and test those properties," he says.

The current threat, Mycoplasma bovis, has spread further than officials expected and could cost the country as much as a $1 billion.

As it stands, the system tracks every cow individually, but farmers say it doesn't work.

"It's very easy for one or two cows to slip through a manual process system, because it's on an individual cow basis, whereas this is looking potentially at the stock trucks," says farmer Athol New.

OnSide uses cutting-edge mathematical theory, developed by US-based Kiwi Dr Hautahi Kingi. While it only covers 2000 farms, they're planning to expand, using information from other companies, and are looking for the Government's help.

Mr Higgs met with the Ministry for Primary Industries last year, but says he didn't hear back. The ministry was quick to respond to inquiries from Newshub, saying it's interested and will follow up with OnSide.