When it comes to the scale of the problem deep tech startup MRead is solving, detecting and addressing the global humanitarian crisis caused by landmines is both bigger and more horrifying than any market you’d care to tackle.
Today, April 4, is the day the United Nations International Day for Mine Awareness and MRead is the result of a collaboration with science agency CSIRO and business consultant RFC Ambrian. The company just landed a secret Seed round that gives it two years of runway to address a problem that is growing bigger by the day, especially with Russia’s war on Ukraine currently underway.
Some 25 years after hundreds of countries agreed on a global treaty banning anti-personnel mines, there are still more than 100 million landmines deployed in more than 60 countries, and causes an estimated 6,500 casualties each year, including approximately 2,500 deaths.
The groundbreaking landmine detection technology they use was developed by CSIRO as part of decades of work sort ore technologies for the mining sector. They build handheld detectors that are faster, more accurate, and more cost-effective for detecting landmines for cleanup.
CSIRO and business consultant RFC Ambrian have launched MRead as a joint venture, supporting the secret Seed round alongside ASX-listed Codan.
CSIRO developed magnetic resonance technology that detects the molecular signature of explosives used in land mines, making it more reliable than the metal detectors currently in use. MRead’s portable devices avoid the white noise of metal objects such as bottle caps and shrapnel, which slows down the current metal detection and cleanup process.
CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall said MRead will create new jobs and save lives.
“Science-driven innovation solves our biggest challenges – from growing our economy by creating new industries and reinventing old ones, to tackling a global humanitarian crisis that injures or kills thousands every year,” said Dr Marshall .
“The precision of this technology will be a game-changer for landmine clearing, providing a solution that is faster and more reliable than current detectors, which in turn protects the people doing the clearing and expands the range of clearing efforts to the world a safer place. I am proud to see world-class science driving innovation from Australia to reach out globally to improve lives around the world.
MRead General Manager John Shanahan is a retired Brigadier General and former Commander of the ADF Counter EID Task Force, so he understands firsthand the difference this can make in countries recovering from conflict.
“Magnetic resonance landmine detection technology will have a major impact on areas recovering from and currently experiencing deprivation and danger from uncleared minefields,” he said.
“These enduring explosive remnants of war impede freedom of movement, limiting access to food, water, schools, hospitals and shelter, jeopardizing the safe recovery and return of the civilian population.”
MRead’s first clients are humanitarian non-governmental organizations such as The HALO Trust, which conducts mine clearance activities around the world.
HALO Trust’s R&D officer, Matthew Abercrombie, said some of the world’s poorest communities are hardest hit by the ongoing problem of landmines, which can persist a decade after conflicts have ended.
“Landmines kill and injure men, women, boys and girls, kill valuable livestock and prevent safe access to homes, infrastructure and productive farmland,” he said.
“However, mine clearance is a slow process and HALO is always looking for new equipment and techniques that can increase clearance efficiency. Detectors that can reliably distinguish between landmines and other metal objects could have a major impact in this area.”
MRead plans to deploy its first handheld detectors with the HALO Trust in landmine-affected regions of Southeast Asia in 2024.