To help farmers to monitor their flocks and improve their productivity, the British company Silent Herdsman wants to equip worldwide cows connected necklaces.
Connected objects and wearable technology are not only for people. A market for remote surveillance systems to gather data on animals has begun to take root. Scotland-based startup Silent Herdsman has developed a connected collar for cattle, designed to help dairy and beef cattle owners to monitor the health of their herds and boost their productivity. Sensors in the collars, which are currently being used by hundreds of livestock farmers across Europe, gather biometric data and the system uses predictive analysis to help farmers manage their herds more efficiently. Spun out of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, the startuporiginally launched its product in 2010 under the name Embedded Technology Solutions, following a lengthy period of R&D supported by regional development funding from Scottish Enterprise, Scotland's main economic, enterprise, innovation and investment agency. Now Silent Herdsman has just raised £3 million in new funding from an investor syndicate led by Scottish Equity Partners (SEP), comprising Albion Ventures and Scottish Investment Bank – the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise – and intends to use this fresh capital to accelerate its expansion and reach new customers.
Predictive analysis for better herd management
Silent Herdsman’s decision-support platform comprises a behavior-monitoring collar which uses proprietary predictive analytics software to detect physiological conditions in cattle. The collar and software enable the farmer to identify for example when a cow is in oestrus, or pregnant, when the cow is ill, its milk production is up, and so on. Once a condition has been identified, the collar sends the information to a wireless base station installed on the farm, which in turn sends an alert to the farmer’s mobile device or desktop computer. Silent Herdsman holds the patent on its key technology, which is intended to provide precise forecasts on the health of individual animals and herds and thus help to boost farm revenues. CEO Annette McDougall, one of the people behind the original invention, underlined that by using the system: “Farmers can monitor the fertility behavior of the animal, the likelihood of pregnancy in the cow and ultimately produce more milk to boost operational efficiency on the farm.” By catching problems early onthrough real-time monitoring, optimizing milk production and reducing the cost of personally checking on the cattle at close range, farmers can cut their overall production costs and maximize profits. Moreover, in order to prolong the collar’s battery life, it connects only when it needs to send an alert.
Expanding market in connected objects for animals
Silent Herdsman has announced that, in addition to aiming to grow its global customer base, the company will be using the new funding to expand the range of animal health and welfare services offered by its wearable technology. The basic idea is both to make herd monitoring more efficient for the farmer and at the same time to enable more targeted action to be taken faster on the basis of the animal data. This ‘precision farming’ approach should help to significantly increase global production efficiency, which is becoming a major challenge with the world’s growing population. Albion Ventures partnerRobert Whitby-Smith expressed great enthusiasm about the Silent Herdsman project as he expects the animal health monitoring market to grow rapidly. However, Silent Herdsman is not the first company to bring the Internet of Things to livestock. Well Cow, another Scottish company, last year launched a device designed to remotely monitor the nutritional health of dairy herds. Swedish firm Luda has also developed a range of wireless monitoring products for both cattle and horses. More intriguing connected systems have also been developed for pets. One example is the Snif project developed by the MIT Media Lab. Snif is a social networking-enabled collar for dogs which provides data on – and helps to encourage – animal-to-animal, animal-to-owner, and owner-to-owner interaction.