“I HAVE a passion for solving problems,” says Amanda Pickford, founder and CEO of Scottish tech firm ThermaFY. “We haven’t just come up with an idea and tried to take it to market, we’ve looked at people’s problems and tried to create a solution.”

Borders-based ThermaFY is a thermal image analysis company that specialises in finding solutions that can be identified by measuring temperature changes, whether in animal or mineral substances. Launched in 2015, ThermaFY, through its AI software, aims to tackle some of society’s biggest environmental and social challenges, including Covid-19.

The business recently piloted a new solution which has been installed in two hospitals with Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust, scanning over 6,000 people every day for high temperatures. The company was able to build this new solution after successfully securing support via the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund.

“We had no intention to build that [scanning software] until Covid-19 came along,” says Ms Pickford. “We’ve always had a plan to move into the health sector but digital health is still a growing industry and we didn’t feel the timing was right for our new solution, so we were focusing on our other core products first.

“The change that Covid has brought about has just accelerated our growth pattern immensely.”

As the core business, ThermaFY incorporates three divisions to tackle different solutions throughout key sectors. ThermaFY ECO Solutions analyses heating efficiency in homes including fault prediction and life span.

ThermaFY Protect offers an automated thermal scanner for entrance foyers (the first of which was installed in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital).

Finally, ThermaFY AGRI Tec is an automated remote sensor used to improve cattle health with image and temperature analysis for early detection of disease.

Having lived on a farm her entire life, the self-professed “classic serial entrepreneur” who dabbled in other sectors including childcare, property development and sales, began selling thermal cameras independently, primarily to be used in the equine market.

After a time selling the cameras, Ms Pickford identified an opportunity to improve the devices with more efficient software that could use machine learning and image analysis to produce visual reports.

“While I was selling the thermal camera at horse trade shows, someone from Bosch came across and said this would be great in the plumbing industry,” says Ms Pickford, “and so I then ended up signing a European contract to sell the cameras to their network of engineers to look at heating systems.”

Originally from Somerset, and after selling their farm due to the effects of foot and mouth disease, Ms Pickford and her husband moved up to Scotland to start afresh. The family now farms in the Scottish Borders.

“I would call myself an opportunist,” she admits. “I’ve never had a proper job and I never went to university.

“I started working for myself when I was 21, and before that I worked in factories and became a nanny.”

Ms Pickford has been appointed as an ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) and won Innovator of the Year at the 2019 (WES) Awards.

“I love the fact that I’m a female founder of a tech company,” she explains.

“It’s really important that we are given a platform because there are so few women in tech and there needs to be far more. We look at things differently and understand things differently and it’s a really hard road to be on when it’s such a male-dominated environment.”

ThermaFY is now a Microsoft partner and a member of the Royal Bank of Scotland Climate and Entrepreneur Accelerator programme – a partnership that Ms Pickford admits has been “great for our network” and helped the company connect with the right people.

She says: “With more people now working from home, we’re looking to work with companies such as the Royal Bank, helping them to continue to meet their environmental targets by addressing how people are working from home with inefficient heating systems, identifying ways to reduce their employees heating bills while also reducing their carbon footprint.”

Having a strong network remains crucial to the growth of ThermaFY, says Ms Pickford.

“One of the things I’ve noticed the most this year is not being able to network and build relationships the same as I’ve done before.

“Self-belief is probably one of my biggest issues and having the confidence that I can do it.

“Using other people’s voices and not just your own is a great benefit. If other people believe in you, then your story is so much easier to tell because it gives you that confidence.”

Ms Pickford, who has four full-time employees, believes ThermaFY Protect will be the immediate focus for the firm although the entrepreneur points out that there are products to sell in all three divisions of the business.

She says: “I believe they [ThermaFY products] are all relevant to the time and will naturally grow as they are solving real problems, addressing some of society’s greatest challenges.”


This article appears as part of The Herald's Entrepreneur campaign, in association with RBS.