January 29, 2021 10:59 am Published by

AgriTech and AI: Livestock Management in 2021

Animal facial recognition – a good idea, but is it just that?  

Keeping tabs on farm animals used to be a small nick in the ear, a strip of numbers or perhaps a cute name. While they may remember us, cows and sheep look so similar, especially in larger masses, that keeping tags on them is the most efficient way of livestock management. Here is where AI comes in. Yes, electronic tagging has been around for a while. But what if we told you, that face recognition for animals is also a thing?

Introducing you to Cainthus, is an Irish agtech startup whose operations have been in place since 2016, was founded by David and Ross Hunt. Since beginning, about two year back, Cainthus has established a partnership with investor Cargill, established 155 years ago, operating across 70 countries. Another interesting fact you may find fascinating, is that the company is currently led by Aidan Connolly, former chief innovation officer at Alltech.

Facial Recognition Software 

The UK has had the legal requirement of electronic identification (EID) in sheep for a while now, and Allflex predicts this to shift to cows and other livestock within the next 5 years. The market may seem saturated, however, there are only 18 companies currently that provide livestock management tagging solutions. Cainthus has been marked as one of the fastest to innovate before, though tended to run into issues before regarding funding and tech adoption, which is why it has decided to raise $50m for further development after introducing facial recognition for cows back in 2018. The company has seeked this from investors late 2020, which is therefore still in progress. 

Cainthus uses breakthrough technology in software development, allowing 24/7 monitoring of cows. The facial recognition software uses live imagery in order to identify individual animals through hide patterns, and facial features, thus; indicate health and well-being. The benefit in this, is the ability to record the unique behaviour and identity of cows, mapping personality and movements. From this, using AI-led mathematical algorithms, the software generates useful analytics regarding feeding patterns, reproduction management, milk production and health.

Issues Along The Way

The notable issue identified by Cainthus itself, is that facial recognition is difficult to efficiently implement on cows, because they are animals after all. Movements, and natural behaviour make it challenging to introduce to traditional farms. Even in human implementation, lighting, angle and other factors make it harder to unlock our phones, not even mentioning having to switch back to the pin code method due to 2020’s dictation of getting by wearing masks. While the process in this area is slowed down by such resistance, perhaps the system is just not developed well enough yet. We have to give it to them though, innovation is definitely high in this area. 

The Take-Away

What we have learnt is that developments like this require constant large investment and research to improve. Besides challenges in the way, Cainthus keeps coming out on top. Introducing newer tools, such as the ALUS Nutrition and ALUS behaviour, there are plenty of successful feed-management options out there that Cainthus offers. Apart from the facial recognition matters, the Irish-American operated company provides high technology monitoring equipment on top of competition, which is why it is to be looked out for in 2021.

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