Startups focus on dairy data and automation

Several Canadian companies among featured dairy startups

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The World Dairy Expo is often the site for the release of numerous dairy technologies.

The show was cancelled this year, but that didn’t stop the Expo from supporting a virtual dairy technology showcase, called the Global Dairy Tech Start-Up Spotlight which recently highlighted dairy technology in a virtual forum.

Advanced Animal Diagnostics, Cainthus, EIO Diagnostics, Fyto, Labby, Livestock Water Recycling, Milc group, PharmRobotics, SomaDetect and Zisk were the featured companies.

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Getting greater value from manure

Three of the companies featured have Canadian roots, including Livestock Water Recycling from Alberta.

Karen Schuett of that company says it is ‘digitizing manure’ by separating organics and micronutrients.

The micronutrients can then be used in a precision fashion or sold off the farm.

Plant is the company’s digital system that automates application of additives. It helps save chemistry costs. Analytics reporting on the manure fraction quality and volume helps farmers sell.

The company also helps link farmers to off farm buyers.

It works with companies to add value to biogas digester systems to produce and market farm-based natural gas.

Its technology allows farmers to recycle up to 70 per cent of water from manure.

Detecting early udder inflammation

EIO Diagnostics uses cameras to detect dairy cow disease.

It has a real-time diagnostics system for mastitis, that CEO Tamara Leigh says fits especially well in rotary parlours.

Other systems look for signs of infection in the milk, but EIO looks at early signs of inflammation in the udder and it works without touching the cows or the milk. At the entry of a rotary parlour, a camera takes an image of an udder and within a second sends a signal to the farmer to take action. EIO is also developing a cow identification system that’s an alternative to RFID technology. It can be used by farmers, or as part of other technology tools.

The system costs $1 per cow per month, meaning $12 per cow per year, which is significantly lower than the average per cow treatment cost of mastitis per year.

The service is expected to be launched into the market in the fall of 2021. The system was founded by a software engineer and dairy farmer in British Columbia.

In-line milk sensing for quality and reproduction

SomaDetect, another Canadian company, uses sensor data to help with reproduction.

Bethany Deshpande of SomaDetect says the company is working to reduce the two largest reasons farmers have to cull cows – reproduction and mastitis.

The company has been known for its milk quality and mastitis sensing, but it has recently begun to help farmers understand when cows are pregnant. Cows are monitored throughout lactation and farmers are informed when cows have lost their pregnancy. The new product uses the same sensors that are already being used for milk quality.

SomaDetect’s inline milk sensor detects milk quality parameters and helps identify reproduction issues.
photo: SomaDetect

Automating injections

PharmRobotics is looking at the fact that 135 million injections are given to cows in the United States alone and many aren’t given well.

Alika Chuck, from PharmRobotics says that many animals don’t receive the amount of injection they need due to animal management challenges and human error.

PharmRobotics has created the Sureshot to manage injections. Once an animal leaves the milking system, it goes through a run where it is scanned to see if an injection is needed. A bumper and gates hold the animal still and a robotic arm then delivers the injection in the cow’s neck.

The system uploads data in real time to the farm management system.

Shortage of skilled labour means this is the time for such an innovation, says Chuck.

The system also provides traceability relating to injections.

The company targets large dairy farms with its technology, especially those that already use robotics.

Monitoring feed and cows

Cainthus is a company that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to monitor cows and their feed all the time.

The system keeps an eye on how cows interact with feed – when they do and don’t have access to feed and when feed should be pushed up.

It also allows farmers to understand how the environment affects farm feed intake.

The goal is to improve feed efficiency.

Cameras are installed in a barn ceiling. Four cameras are needed for a barn of about 400 cows.

The system can be accessed on mobile or computers.

The company will also be providing a cow comfort index that shows how often cows are lying versus standing.

Automated milk testing

Labby came out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and advanced sensing research.

Julia Somerdin, one of the founders, says the company provides lab-grade testing on farm and in real time for milk fat, protein and somatic cell count. Having live individual cow data during milking means instant actions can be taken.

The company has two products – a portable analyzer and an inline sensor that automates the process.

Managing feed, milker and employee data

Milc Group is a three-year-old company that has a cloud-based solution for dairy farm management.

Raffael Lichdi of Milc Group says the company makes products like OneFeed that manages feed on the farm by seamlessly connecting farmer with feed supplier, nutritionist and workers making feed on farms. Milc Pulse monitors milking equipment with sensors so farmers know how well the equipment is working. And Train Trac is an employee monitoring and training system for dairies.

The company also has a new system that integrates feed, people and financial management.

Looking at dairy finance

Kevin Hoogendorn is a vet who has worked as a business advisor to dairies. He’s seen thousands of farmers leave the dairy sector and says that better understanding future financial impacts would have helped. Zisk is his app and allows simple on-farm data with milk market futures to predict future profitability for farms.

Testing by quarter for mastitis

Advanced Animal Diagnostics allows farmers to see what’s happening inside cows, especially relating to mastitis.

Tim Griswold says the company’s testing system, called QScout, allows farmers to identify and treat mastitis early. Samples are collected from each quarter and transferred to an on-farm testing lab. The system identifies certain white blood cells that can indicate mastitis. The system produces a diagnosis based on each quarter of the udder.

Dairy feed from aquatic plants

FYTO aims to feed dairy cows differently by using less labour, water and fuel to grow crops at a reasonable price using specialized aquatic plants.

The plants grow quickly and are high in protein. Jason Prapas of FYTO says that 30 times more protein can be grown per acre using aquatic plants than soybeans and alfalfa.

More amino acids are available in aquatic plants so less supplementation is necessary.

They can use processed dairy cow manure as a plant nutrient.

The company was started out of MIT last year.

About the author


John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig



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