Techion AI Project


Are you looking for practical AI experience?

Do you want to work with world-leading NZ designed patented technology?

Techion Background:

Parasites have the most significant impact on animal performance after nutrition. Parasites also have a massive effect on farm productivity; management of parasitism consumes a considerable amount of time and money. The way parasites are diagnosed had not changed for decades until Techion developed FECPAK. Techion’s newest product FECPAKG2 modernises the traditional microscope-based testing method with an image-based, internet-connected, software supported diagnostic platform.

Techion is a Dunedin based company, and our technology has been developed right here in association with Otago University. The technology we use to accumulate eggs for imaging and counting is patented around the world in our major markets.

We have customers worldwide, and have been involved in many projects with international collaborators, including Starworms; a project supported by the Gates Foundation.


Overall Aim/Goal:

This project aims to extend the speed and capability of our diagnostic platform by enabling accurate AI counting and recognition of important species of parasite eggs.

Traditional parasite egg counting in samples is done using microscopes, manual counting, and transcribing of results which is time-consuming, expensive and prone to mistakes. The species of parasite can be significant – some species are very harmful, some are benign. Treatment can vary depending on species. Identification to the species level is currently made via larval culture which is time-consuming. Development of this technology will enable real-time, fast and more helpful results for farmers.


Project Duration:

- 2 semesters


Project Description:

You will gain a full understanding of the background of the project from your mentor John Newton who has been conducting most of the research in this area for Techion. Using information you have gained from John and research of your own you will undertake and report on a literature review of AI applications in microscopy and identify potential competitors or collaborators for Techion in this area.

We have an early stage AI model and codebase written by John in FastAI & PyTorch. The model can currently count eggs using Techion’s FECPAKG2 patented well technology with an accuracy of >95%. You will further develop the AI model to distinguish, classify and count eggs from the Nematodirus and Strongyle parasites in well images produced from faecal samples using FECPAKG2. FECPAKG2 is a novel parasite separation automatic microscope platform. Algorithm development will be done using a convolutional neural network (CNN). Basic documentation of all tools and programs developed will be required.

Note: you won’t need to be anywhere near the samples, and all work can be done remotely online.

The images generated using the FECPAKG2 well technology contain multiple species from within the strongyle and Nematodirus genera that cannot be differentiated by the human eye. We have contacts internationally who are working with us to achieve this speciation. For example, scientists at Cornell University have FECPAKG2 and they have been creating images of Haemonchus Contortus eggs and sending them to us. You will work with international collaborators such as these, to create libraries of single species images. You will then use the single species images to develop ways to distinguish and count different strongyle species and different Nematodirus species in the same sample in images from our FECPAKG2 wells.

As well as diagnosing strongyle and Nematodirus parasites the FECPAKG2 system is being developed to identify and count other species of eggs, including, but not limited to, Coccidia, rumen fluke and liver fluke. These eggs are imaged using different technology on fine film slides. You may be developing additional AI models to identify and count these additional species as part of your project.


Desired Outputs :

  1. You will use background information gained from John Newton and your own research to write a literature review and IP report on the subject of AI applications in microscopy.
  2. You will further develop John Newton’s AI model and dataprep code to distinguish between and count Strongyle and Nematodirus genus eggs in images generated using our well technology with 95% accuracy (per genus) compared to trained technicians counting and identifying eggs.
  3. You will assemble a library of 80 images per species of interest (or the number required) to use in the development and training of an algorithm to speciate and count strongyle and Nematodirus eggs in well images.
  4. You will develop an AI model which can distinguish between different strongyle species and different Nematodirus species of parasite eggs in well images of samples to an 80% accuracy compared to larval culture.
  5. We expect output 4 to be a challenging goal. If for whatever reason, output 4 turns out to be unachievable, an alternative output is the development of the AI Models for different species such as Liver fluke, Rumen fluke and Coccidia using images generated using our fine film technology. The specific species models you will work on will be decided at the time. Your goal for these AI models will be 95% accuracy compared to human counting.


Preferred Skills:

Techion is seeking suitable students with a relevant undergraduate degree who are interested in gaining experience in practical applications of AI in technology. Familiarity with Jupyter Notebook, PyTorch and python is needed. Techion will provide a subscription to Azure or Google cloud for the duration of the project.
An interest in microscopy would be an advantage but is not essential.


Available Resources:

We have an advisor, John Newton also based in Auckland, and you would work closely with him. John has been developing Techion’s new hardware platform for the past two years and developed many of the optical algorithms used on our product. John has a Masters in Science and has completed several deep learning courses.

We expect you will visit us in Dunedin at least once during the year to get first-hand experience of how the technology you develop will be used to help farmers and veterinarians. We rely heavily on Zoom for our face to face meetings with our many colleagues worldwide.


Research Stipend

This project qualifies for a Callaghan Innovation R&D Fellowship Grant. The successful candidate will get paid a stipend of $26,000 p.a. (this is a one year project). 

For students to be eligible for an R&D Fellowship Grant placement, students must: 

  • Be enrolled in a masters requiring the completion of a research thesis project. 
  • Be studying science, technology, engineering, design or business at a New Zealand university or tertiary institute. 
  • Be legally permitted to study in New Zealand



Applications Close Monday 1 June 2020.


Contact Techion, Science Manager, Helen Manly:




Our associates

New Zealand, Techion
Invermay Agriculture Centre
Block A, 176 Puddle Alley, Mosgiel, 9092, New Zealand
0800 332 725
+64 3 477 7555

UK and Europe, Techion
Peithyll Centre, Capel Dewi, Aberystwyth, SY23 3HU, Wales
+44 0 1970 821 918

Australia, Dawbuts Animal Health
9 Mitchell Street, Camden, New South Wales, 2570, Australia
+61 2 4655 6464