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Research Innovation Focus
Research Innovation
An innovative, smart technology is aiming
to save millions of piglets and billions in
lost revenue for the global pig industry.
The attention of world's pig industry is firmly focused
on the current threat of African Swine Fever. However,
according to Matthew Rooda, SwineTech co-founder and
CEO, another, more innocuous threat endangers the lives
of 160 million piglets worldwide each year: their mother.
According to Matthew, the 160 million piglet deaths
worldwide, leads to the waste of 34.9 billion pounds of
pork, costing the pork industry and stakeholders $25bn.
SwineTech is one of nine innovative companies
participating in the Alltech Pearse Lyons Accelerator
Programme. It's device, SmartGuard, is designed to reduce
piglet mortality through technology.
Smart solution
SmartGuard uses a wearable, intelligent device that is
attached to a sow's flank using a medical adhesive (much
like a band aid) and a machine that is placed in the pen. The
machine listens to the sounds within the pen and identifies
the di erent breath-squeal, breath-squeal patterns. When
it identifies a change in that pattern, caused by a lay-on
(crushing) event, a message is sent to the wearable device
on the sow, which emits a vibration that alerts her to
stand up. SwineTech compares the vibrations to those of a
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) pulse
that humans wear to help treat pain.
The device is worn during the first few days after
giving birth, allowing the piglets time to build strength
and speed to move around the pen and avoid further
cases of crushing. SwineTech reports up to 66 per cent
improvement in lay-on in the first three days. The company
describes the device as an `extra hand' on the farm to help
manage animal welfare.
A new solution to an old problem
Speaking at the Alltech One Conference in Kentucky
earlier this year, Matthew explained that piglet crushing is
a long-standing concern for farmers and a hindrance to
productivity on pig farms.
Matthew is from a family of pork producers and while
attending college in 2013, he worked as an assistant
manager on a farrow-to-finish farm where the historic
problem of piglet crushing became abundantly clear to
him. He and his team trialled several methods to prevent
crushing but found no success.
Shortly after graduation, Matthew visited the world pork
expo where he found that 92 per cent of pig producers
are actively looking for solutions to pig crushing. With
his friend Abraham Espinoza, a computer science and
engineering student, Matthew began exploring a solution
to piglet crushing. Their research and innovation led to
the establishment of SwineTech, and the development of
Beyond mortality
As well as managing mortality, SwineTech says the
device can also monitor additional information, including
the temperature in pens, and the activity of the sow
monitoring the number of times she is standing, which
is important for her welfare. SwineTech is also exploring
other information points for monitoring into the future and
intends o ering customers further insights, around nursing,
birthing and the environment, to deliver a higher quality of
life, better manage their labour and improve productivity.
The cost of each machine and wearable is approximately
US$2,250, with ongoing licencing costs for farmers ranging
in price, depending on the depth of information the farmer
chooses. The information is sent to a dashboard that the
farmer can access from their phone or tablet.
The technology is transferable within pens and, according
to Matthew, can oversee 160 litters a year.
Protecting piglets
from their mothers
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