10 to Watch Winner: EIO Diagnostics

Damir Wallener knew very little about cows, but that didn’t stop his company EIO Diagnostics from developing the technology to solve a serious issue affecting the dairy industry.

Tamara Leigh and Damir Wallener of EIO Diagnostics
Tamara Leigh and Damir Wallener. Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

Entrepreneur Damir Wallener never dreamed he’d launch a business focused on the dairy industry, but when a friend approached him about a sick animal on Vancouver Island and a farmer who needed help, he launched EIO Diagnostics .

Partnering with experts in the tech and dairy industries, EIO created FirstLook Mastitis, a revolutionary early mastitis detection system that keeps dairy animals healthy and farmers in business. Mastitis, an infection of the udder, is the most common health issue affecting the dairy industry. It costs farmers $10 billion per year globally, in treatment, production and animal loss.

“What I knew was that we could do this — and we needed to create a product that worked for farmers, not just in the lab,” says Wallener, who is CEO of EIO.

FirstLook sensors show farmers symptoms days before a person would see physical signs. That means infected animals can be treated sooner, says Tamara Leigh, EIO’s chief marketing officer, and agriculture expert.

The system uses automated, touchless technology to measure udder heat in under one second. Because it doesn’t require internet, Wallener and Leigh hope it will one-day support populations worldwide that rely on dairy animals.

“When you can see what people really need, it gets you up in the morning,” says Leigh. “You don’t always know what barriers you’re going to face, but sometimes the path rises up to meet you. Farmers feed us — they’re the real rock stars — and we need to do everything we can to support them.”

A Q & A with Tamara Leigh and Damir Wallener of EIO Diagnostics

What was the best business advice you ever received?

Leigh: Be nice to everyone on your way up because they’re the ones who will catch you on your way down.

Wallener: Have every conversation — you never know where they will take you. And don’t let fear stop you from trying.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Leigh: Build a great team. No one can do everything themselves; you want a team that brings different skills to the table.

Wallener: There’s no such thing as having too many conversations. Your work won’t matter unless you know what people really want; offer that.

What was the scariest part of starting up?

Wallener: There’s a moment when you have to decide if you’ll commit to this process — and it’s a long process — knowing there’s no guarantee of a successful outcome. That’s a leap of faith. You have to be sure you want this.

This article is from the April/May 2019 issue of Douglas.