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Progressive Events: Dairy tech startups in the spotlight

Progressive Dairy Editor Walt Cooley Published on 06 November 2020

More than 700 people logged in from around the world to hear 10 start-ups give their elevator pitches during the first-ever Global Dairy Tech Start-up Spotlight in early October.

All of the companies were asked to answer three questions in their 10-minute presentation and Q&A with a panel of experts.

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Here were the questions they attempted to answer: What technology are you offering? What are the costs/benefits of the technology? Why is your technology needed now and in the future?

Editor Walt Cooley attended the event and reported the following top headlines from each of the companies that presented at the conference:

PharmRobotics

  • What? A robotic arm positioned at the exit alley leading away from the parlor to administer vaccines and reproductive products

  • Cost-benefit? On dairy farms using timed A.I., employees administer 15,000 to 18,000 shots per 1,000 cows per year. The cost of labor to administer shots and the average inaccuracy of shot protocols can cost a farm up to $285 per cow per year. ROI of this tech is estimated at one to three years.

  • Why needed in the future? Skilled labor shortages and increasing demands for traceability of pharmaceuticals used on farms

Cainthus

  • What? Computer vision and artificial intelligence to monitor feed availability and cow comfort

  • Cost-benefit? “Initial data is looking like a 3-to-1 return.”

  • Why needed in the future? To benchmark the effect of management practices on daily time budgets for cows. “The exciting part of computer vision technology is if you can see it, we can essentially train the system to see it too.”

Livestock Water Recycling

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  • What? A digitized, automated platform to manage manure nutrient monitoring, extraction and utilization

  • Cost-benefit? 18% savings on manure polymer dosing costs

  • Why needed in the future? The system can recycle up to 75% of clean water being lost to lagoons and may create the possibility of a lagoon-free waste stream.

Labby

  • What? In-line and portable optical sensors for raw milk used to detect mastitis. It tests for milkfat, protein and SCC in under 10 seconds.

  • Cost-benefit? Pricing is 70% cheaper than other similar services. ROI possible in less than six months.

  • Why needed in the future? Milk quality results can be provided in minutes instead of days. Gives better visibility to animal health, milk quality and feed efficiency.

milc

  • What? Subscription, cloud-based software for feed management, pulsation monitoring and employee on-boarding/training

  • Cost-benefit? N/A

  • Why needed in the future? It’s a flexible, scalable management software solution. It’s simple to get started and to use. “With our software, you can get up and running within a day. Get management reports from anywhere through a smartphone app without TeamViewer.”

Zisk

  • What? A real-time margin and revenue projection app: “A crystal ball for farmers.”

  • Cost-benefit? Free. It’s a downloadable smartphone application.

  • Why needed in the future? To proactively manage low milk prices and financial distress. “Dairymen use the milk price as a barometer for their emotions of the day. If milk prices are up, they’re having a good day. If milk prices are down, not such a great day.” With the app, dairy owners can start to visualize how risk management strategies could impact gross margins.

Advanced Animal Diagnostics

  • What? An on-farm mini-lab to detect subclinical mastitis using leukocyte counts

  • Cost-benefit? At least $200 saved for every subclinical mastitis case detected

  •  Why needed in the future? To better detect mastitis cases and understand what’s going on with somatic cell counts (SCCs) and thus better manage mastitis treatment plans

EIO Diagnostics

  • What? Computer vision and machine learning to detect and monitor for early indications of mastitis via udder inflammation and swelling

  • Cost-benefit? Only $12 per cow per year

  • Why needed in the future? Fast detection of mastitis is needed in rotary parlor applications. The system can also be used as an affordable alternative to RFID identification.

Fyto

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  • What? Push-button-grown, soy-like protein that feeds like a forage from on-farm cultivated aquatic plants

  • Cost-benefit? Grow 10 to 20 times more protein per acre per year

  • Why needed in the future? Automated growth and feeding of protein to cows year-round that doesn’t require arable land. Uses processed dairy cow manure as one of the inputs to the system.

SomaDetect

  • What? In-line optical sensor and artificial intelligence to improve reproduction and mastitis detection

  • Cost-benefit? Reduce the number of cows requiring preg checks by ultrasound or palpation by up to 50%

  • Why needed in the future? Decrease early embryonic loss and days open. “Identify if cows are pregnant by doing something that you’re doing anyway – milking cows.”

The start-up presentations were reviewed by a panel of three industry experts. The trio included Marcia Endres, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate studies, animal science, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; Joao H.C. Costa, Ph.D., professor, dairy science, University of Kentucky; and Jeffrey Bewley, Ph.D., analytics and innovation scientist at Holstein Association USA.

“Thank you for bringing these [technology] examples. Remember, these are start-ups, and not 100% of them will become viable in the future, but we hope that a lot of these will make it,” Endres said.

The panel concluded the event with their thoughts about what the “farm of the future” could look like.

Jeffrey Bewley said: “My main takeaway of this event is that the farmers who are successful today are the ones [who] are always adopting and looking for new opportunities. If you are not moving forward, you are falling behind. Successful dairy producers always need to keep an eye on new technologies and be part of the process. It can be scary being the first adopter of a technology. But communicate with other dairy producers about their experiences with new technologies and learn from everyone involved in the tech revolution, from start-ups to universities and large established livestock companies.”

Marcia Endres sees a lot of benefits in technologies and automation of manual processes on a dairy farm such as feeding and milking. “The role of the human farmer will be different in the future, and technology and automation will not replace the human. It will be a successful team – or partnership – on the farm. On top of the validation and the return on investment, it is really important that the technology is backed up by excellent support and service from the supplier to help the farmers with a smooth integration of the technology on the farm.”

Joao Costa’s key takeaways are that new technologies can help farmers deal with labor issues and reduce the pressure of manual labor for routine practices on the farm. “But technologies can also help in making better decisions. The challenges and standards are getting more complex each day. We simply need more automated data to make decisions, as we cannot rely only on human management to make important decisions for dairy operations.

As more people are leaving the dairy business, we are simply losing the know-how and the experience. So I believe in automation of labor-intensive processes, but also automation of decisions. I am very hopeful of the future, but looking at all the technologies available already and that will hit the market in the near future, I am positive that we can deal with the big challenges such as labor and farm profitability,” Costa concluded. end mark

Editor Walt Cooley interviewed the host of the event, Aidan Connolly, president of AgriTech Capital, on a recent Progressive Dairy podcast. Go to Progressive Dairy PodcastsProgressive Dairy Podcasts to hear his thoughts.

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