That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Michelle O’Donnell, of LambCam, a software that helps farmers monitor sheep’s behaviour during lambing season.
The project recently secured €5,000 in funding, after securing first place in the University of Galway IdeasLab’s 2023 Start100 student entrepreneurship programme.
“I come from a family-run sheep farm in Westport, County Mayo. While I could not tell you how many generations farming has been in the family, it has been a long time.
My grandad inherited the farm as a young boy when his father moved to the US for work, and it was in the family long before this.
My dad, John, runs our sheep farm at the moment and my brother, Louis, and I help out when we can.
Since a train driving through the house could not wake my dad and brother at night, I am often appointed to the night watch duties, and I have to keep an eye on the cameras during lambing.
Lambing, for us, lasts 3-4 months of the year. Getting up 5 to 6 times a night would be fit to drive you mad and by the second month, you just want to throw your phone out the window every time an alarm goes off.
It is exhausting, so I figured, as anyone would, that this is absolute madness! So, I googled getting something better than the cameras for the farm, but there was nothing.
It was January and I was doing an entrepreneurship module at the time at school and Shan Pereira (Abu Dhabi) and Maria Comas (Spain) were on my team.
For this module, we had to make up our own company to practice how company development and business models work.
Majella Giblin, our lecturer, advised the teams to think of problems we were having in our own lives or around us and work on solutions from there.
I looked at Shan and Maria explained the concept of LambCam. In a leap of faith, they went with the idea despite not being from farming backgrounds and we decided “let’s do this!”.
We are NDA restricted; however, I can inform readers of this article that it does what you have to do when you check the cameras.
It is a software that we will attach to farmers’ existing hardware, so you do not need to get a new camera fitted; you just install our app.
There are no others doing what we do in this specific industry. So, our main competition is cameras which are in the process of saturating.
Benefits include, well for one, you sleep more, and you reduce losses during lambing season, as a result of birthing complications during unassisted births.
Also, you save time which as we all know is precious because you are not checking the cameras half as much as our software is keeping an eye on the flock and sending you a notification when it detects suspicious activity in the flock.
Shan had a background in economics and finance which suited me, as I was barely able to put two and two together. Maria had a background in marketing and market research and could make anything look stunning.
I had knowledge of the sheep farming industry and a degree in commerce. So, as a team, we complete each other.
The three of us are still together working on the idea and it has been a lot of fun.
Considering we have only been working on this for about 6 months, it has come a long way.
Ideaslab Start100 entrepreneurship programme
We took part in the University of Galway Ideaslab Start100 entrepreneurship program recently and that really gave us the opportunity to meet the professionals and develop the skills and knowledge we would need going forward.
We were declared winners at the Start100 programme held by IdeasLab, University of Galway which was adjudged by prominent business personalities from across Ireland.
LambCam would be most useful for part-time farmers because they have jobs on top of their farming commitments so time for them is especially pulled in all directions.
However, anyone with cameras who is sick of checking the sheep can use it and benefit from it.
It benefits farms who shed their sheep during lambing and have cameras installed for lambing surveillance.
We will use a subscription-based model and we are currently conducting market research and product development to come up with an affordable and justifiable price point.
Currently, we have an app available and are undergoing testing and development with some external partners.
We have had a lot of interest in the idea. Everyone we speak to says well my brother, my uncle, my neighbour, and so on would love this! People are excited about it and want to see it happen as much as we do.
There is a need among the farming community for this product and there are no alternative options out there at the moment to compete with us so its an opportunity ripe for the picking.
As I understand it, more than 80% of farmers have a full-time job and still keep their farms going.
With the way money is in the industry, I do not see this number going down. People still keep up farming for the love of it, the tradition, and the culture.
It is as much in our interest to keep farmers as it is to keep the Irish language going so helping them in any way we can, be it through new technologies or other means, is not just helping sustain an individual way of life but a crucial part of our society and history.
The world is our oyster, and we want to expand to the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
We are approaching businesses with a quirky leadership style and team building and diversity are very important to us.
It is not every day a young girl and two internationals pop up with an idea that is appreciated by the industry, so we are getting a lot of traction and interest based on our group dynamics.”
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