EARLIEST ENTREPRENEURIAL MEMORY: Selling drawings to family members at gatherings. FAVORITE AUTHOR OR BOOK: Living Comfortably with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron. SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH: Goofy comedy and wordplay.
This entrepreneur found her roots in the very foundation of society
INNOVATION IS THE MOTHER OF IMPACT. Tamara Leigh found herself in the world of agriculture. “Agriculture is a home industry where I can express all the different parts of myself,” she says. “It’s cultural, economic, social, environmental, political and scientific. In terms of impact, it is one of the cornerstones of human civilization.”
Leigh’s mission focuses on telling an updated and more accurate picture of agriculture. “There’s still this pastoral story of agriculture that goes back to a pitchfork and two American Gothic people standing in front of a barn, and that’s not what agriculture looks like. Modern agriculture is incredibly diverse and innovative,” she says. Her lust for innovation and her skills in communication merged when she co-founded EIO Diagnostics.
“EIO Diagnostics was born in a barn,” she says. Her friend Cory Spencer, a tech developer turned cheesemaker, started using his technology skills to try to address issues on the farm. One of the first challenges he tackled was mastitis detection. Mastitis, or inflammation of the milk producing mammary tissue, is the most common animal health problem in the dairy industry. It is painful for the animal and leads to an interruption in production, costs to care for the animals, and loss of profits.
Farmers proactively screen for these infections to keep their animals healthy and producing well, but the tools available are either manual and subjective, or require a lot of investment and infrastructure, and neither system scales well. “[Cory] was just looking at his own herd and saying, ‘There has to be a better way to do this.’ He started working with infrared sensor technology and machine learning and developed the first prototype.” In 2017, Leigh, Spencer, and their third co-founder Damir Wallener officially launched EIO Diagnostics.
PERSONAL FULFILLMENT IN GLOBAL SOLUTIONS. “I came in as a co-founder because I had global experience in the agriculture sector and I saw the need and market opportunity in this right away,” Leigh says. “For me personally, it checks all the boxes. I get to work with farmers to increase profitability and animal welfare and I get to work in technology and business in a new way.” .”
For Leigh, innovation and business are tools to create positive change. “As we come to understand the world in new ways, we become responsible to conduct ourselves differently,” she continues. “At EIO Diagnostics our core business activity is improving animal health and farm profitability, but the way we do business cannot be separated from social justice issues, sustainability, public health, poverty alleviation, diversity and inclusion.”
Leigh tracks her desire—and, in part, her ability—to work in innovation back to her queer identity. “Coming from slightly outside, challenging norms is natural. It’s something that I’ve done since I was a child,” she says. “Working in innovation is a natural extension of challenging norms. I’m asking people to change their behavior. I’m asking people to try something new. I’m asking people to think about things in different ways. That’s something that I have no problem doing.”