Merck snaps up Irish food traceability firm IdentiGEN

Dublin-based food safety and traceability company IdentiGEN has been acquired by Merck & Co’s MSD Animal Health unit in a deal reported to be worth around €50m ($59m).

Formed in the 1990s as a spin-out from Trinity College, IdentiGEN has developed technology that allows foods such as beef, pork, poultry and seafood to be traced “from farm to fork” using DNA and data analytics.

The platform – called DNA Traceback – is used by producers, processors, retailers and brand owners “to protect their brand’s reputation, justify premium positioning in the market and meet consumer demand while being cost-effective at scale,” according to the Irish company, which also has operations in the UK, EU and US.

Food producers, processors and retailers are looking for accurate and complete animal traceability solutions that provide full accountability as well as greater transparency, quality and sustainability for consumers.

The sale provides a payoff to venture capital company MML Growth Capital Partners Ireland which bought a majority stake in the company in 2015 for €12m, as well as IdentiGEN’s founders Ciaran Meghen and Ronan Loftus.

“Five years ago, IdentiGEN was a high-quality company, focused on a growth sector, with a strong management team which required investment backing to enable the business realise its potential,” commented MML’s head of investment Neil McGowan.

“The team at IdentiGEN has used the investment astutely and has built out the business through pioneering science and technology in food traceability and safety,” he added.

MSD Animal Health said the deal adds specialised, digital technology to its portfolio of animal health medicines, vaccines and services and “complements our existing identification and monitoring technology.”

“Enhanced digital technology will play an increasingly important role in food traceability and food safety, providing customers critical information and actionable data to help ensure a sustainable supply of quality food to protect public health,” said Rick DeLuca, president of MSD Animal Health.

The acquisition of IdentiGEN comes after Merck bought Antelliq Corp – which makes digital identification products for livestock – for around €2.1bn last year.

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