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PetHack in times of Covid-19 – The companion animal open data hackathon

Start date

July 2020

End date

September 2020

Project website



In July 2020 the IAA funded a £2000 ‘rapid response’ project, run by Dr Carla Bonina, which looked at Covid-19’s impact on the animal health community and industry. Pethack was a 100% virtual challenge for pet professionals, data enthusiasts, students, entrepreneurs and more, collaborating on projects that focused on addressing solutions for the pandemic’s impacts on companion animals.

The aim was to bring innovators around the world to join through dedicated digital channels to work with relevant open datasets and digital technologies to foster innovative solutions in the field. IAA funding allowed the award of three financial incentive prizes. The first and the third prize winners were all Post Graduate students.

51 people from 11 different countries came together and delivered 5 innovative proposals. 11 mentors and 3 judges later, the following awards were given:

  • First - ‘Retriever’ – a solution that looked at how veterinary professionals can continue to see patients during the current pandemic and explored the effects of closing vet practices on local communities
  • Second ‘TRAX’ – a global animal disease dashboard to monitor outbreaks of illnesses and their intersection with humanity.
  • Runners Up – ‘Pet Lighthouse’, an app to take control of your pet’s health records and find activities near you and ‘Cats Japan’, a digital cat litter box solution that monitors urine volumes to help identifying health anomalies in domestic cats.



ESRC involvement in this project helped to build connections with multiple partners.

The project allowed for ecosystem generation - bringing together people from the pet industry to work with data scientists, which is not normally an easy task!

The funding of prizes was impactful because all of the winners had never taken part in a hackathon before and were all PhD students or postdocs. A great step on the ladder towards success with their research and business/public engagement.

The IAA project has become a valuable case study for DIHAH - the Data Innovation Hub for Animal Health - which is an information and communications technology environment based at The University of Surrey. Its mission is to make data sharing a smooth process, so that an animal health value network can be developed.

PetHack2021 is being planned as a result of this first project in 2020.

PetHack event report (PDF)

View all IAA projects