Agritech OmniEye, which has developed technology that identifies lameness in cows and could save the industry millions in veterinary bills, has received $1.6 million in seed funding to commercialize its technology.
Dunedin-based OmniEye has developed a non-intrusive on-farm camera that collects thousands of data points from cows daily. Its Locomotion technology detects lameness and allows breeders to isolate cows for treatment.
OmniEye chief executive Greg Peyroux said this meant animals suffered less, there were less costly interventions at a later stage and there was also less slaughter needed.
The technology is being tested on over 20 dairy farms, involving over 20,000 cows.
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A pool of veterinarians and veterinary technicians helped train the software, Peyroux said.
They watched videos and provided a lameness score for each cow viewed. Those scores would in turn be compared to the scores the software gave the cows, allowing the program to be fine-tuned, Peyroux said.
The project originated during the last national Covid-19 lockdown in August, when Peyroux and his colleagues contacted farmers they had previously consulted about facial recognition software for sheep.
They asked them what kind of technology would be practical on farms, and the idea of a lameness detector was born, Peyroux said.
Many farmers were concerned about animal welfare and this technology could give them the ability to identify lameness at an early stage and reduce costs, he said.
OmniEye recorded each time a cow crossed the dairy platform and a farmer could watch videos to see if he missed a lameness or if the treatment worked, he said.
Farms have been hit by labor shortages, due to workers sick with Covid-19, and border restrictions that have prevented seasonal workers from entering New Zealand. This meant that there were fewer workers on the farms tending the cows. and the technology has provided an alternative way to monitor herd health, he said.
Daily videos were fed into a reporting dashboard that provided a score of 0 (healthy) to 3 (very lame) for each cow, Peyroux said.
OmniEye research has shown that nationwide, more than one million cows are affected by lameness each year.
This costs farmers more than $600 per cow on average, with around $352 lost per cow in milk production alone, according to the research.
Costs would increase the longer lameness was left untreated, Peyroux said.