The Business Chat: Cow models, self-flying planes, and single use plastic

Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. In our monthly Business Chat special, Simon Pound speaks with Maria Slade of Callaghan Innovation and Rebecca Stevenson, business editor of The Spinoff, about the business stories making the news that month.

This month Simon, Maria and Rebecca discuss driverless vehicles, the death of plastic bags, and these:

Either download this episode (right click and save), have a listen below or via Spotifysubscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

Simon: Tell me about the anatomically correct animal models.

Maria: This is absolutely my favourite winner from the Fieldays innovation awards. It’s a company called Holsim, and it came out of the Sprout AgriTech Accelerator, this group who were industrial designers. They were doing a bit of work for LIC, because it’s getting harder and harder to train vets and train people how to do artificial insemination. You have to get all sorts of ethical approvals and the animals might not be available at the time you need them.

LIC asked these guys if they could design an anatomically correct cow that people can be taught with. They thought it can’t be that hard.

Simon: And this is anatomically correct inside and out?

Maria: Absolutely, they have designed these amazing mannequins, they’ve done a cow, a pig and a dog so far. Even down to they simulate poo. When you have your hand in a cow, birthing or whatever it is you’re doing, if you spend too long, the tutor can push a button and simulate the poo.

Apparently what happens is the rectum swells up because the cows are trying to eject your hand from its rectum and there is a technique that you have to learn to pull your hand out again without getting covered in poo. If you don’t learn it you’ll get the simulated poo which apparently feels exactly like the real thing.

Rebecca: I don’t want to know how they figured out how to make that poo.

Maria: It is a fascinating business, and they’re selling all around the world, they’re selling to 10 countries at the moment, they have a distributor in Germany, they sell to Myanmar, they sell to the Vienna vet school. It’s a growing business.

The next animals they want to look at making are horses and sheep, and add interest from the Middle East to make a camel, because they artificially inseminate camels in a breeding programme for racing camels over there.

Simon: That’s also amazing that it’s come from the ethical thing of making sure we’re not putting the real animals through more than we have to, but quite a lot of animal husbandry does involve being in the middle.

Maria: It’s also giving the vets and veterinary students the opportunity to train on their own time, for example they have this model of a dog and they can use it to learn how to do x-rays.

You get the model of the dog and put the paw at a certain angle on the x-ray table and the machine has a database of x-rays and through object recognition it looks at the paw and tells you if you’ve got it at the right angle and position to get the x-ray. So the vets can practice without having to involve real technicians and x-rays and real dogs.


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