MESA+ University of Twente
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Volume 1, 2012

Blue4Green: Towards a healthier agri-sector

No laminate or carpeting on the Blue4Green office floor but artificial grass. This MESA+ spin-off manufactures self tests to help vets keep cows healthy. Founder Erik Staijen: “It is our intention to make the veterinary sector more sustainable.”

Blue4Green started four years ago with a lab-on-a-chip, a small block the size of a matchbox that was developed by Albert van den Berg’s BIOS group at MESA+. This labon- a-chip takes only three minutes to produce a reading of the calcium or magnesium content of blood after a drop of a cow’s blood has been applied to the block. If a cow has too little calcium in its blood it can become sick, and before such a situation arises a farmer can decide whether to give the cow rest or supplement its feed. While many cattle farmers do administer antibiotics to their animals as a precautionary measure, it does give rise to resistant bacteria that can pose a threat to humans.

Erik Staijen: “We must become aware of the fact that you cannot see animals and people as separate beings. The term ‘One Health’ is becoming increasingly important. One Health. The health of animals and humans is interlinked.”

What started four years ago with a lab-on-a-chip has now been developed into a complete system comprising a chip, a chip reader and an Internet site that provides cattle farmers with insight into the health of their stock.

Why doesn’t everyone use Blue4Green’s products? Staijen: “Many people think you immediately become rich if you have a technology like our lab-on-a-chip. But it doesn’t work like that. Future users must have faith in the product, and that faith needs to be fostered. They have to be able to see the value of the new technology and you have to prove that it works.”

Staijen and his team have carried out field tests over the past few years with innovative dairy farmers and vets in the Enschede district. Staijen: “We can now really show dairy farmers that they can save € 20,000 a year, and that they can keep their livestock healthier and yet administer less medication. At the same time we have been able to adapt our product to meet the wishes of cattle farmers.”

And what is the next step? Staijen: “We have now developed a ‘lab-book’. This is a tablet computer you can plug the chip into. Using this lab-book means you can then send the data to a website where you compare the measurements taken on different days and carry out analyses. Vets in the district will use these lab-books and advise farmers. Our goal is to provide more insight into animal health and thus create a sustainable agri-sector.”

Global Shaper

“While you tend to depend on older people, the leaders, you can also take command yourself.” Erik Staijen is one of the eighteen young Dutch men and women the World Economic Forum has nominated as Global Shapers. This forum is well-known for its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders meet to network and discuss world issues.

Staijen: “Those world leaders are all above the age of 45. We form the young generation; the generation that can shape the world for future generations. I am absolutely driven by technology. I want to use my brain and technology to create a better society.”