Agritech company OmniEye, which developed technology that identifies lameness in cows and could save the industry millions in veterinary bills, has received $1.6 million seed funding to commercialise their technology.
Dunedin-based OmniEye developed a non-intrusive on-farm camera that collects thousands of data points from cows on a daily basis. Its Locomotion technology detects lameness and allows farmers to single out 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 culling needed.
The technology is being trialled on more than 20 dairy farms, involving more than 20, 000 cows.
A pool of veterinarians and veterinary technicians helped train the software, Peyroux said.
They watched videos and provided a lameness score to each cow viewed. Those scores would in turn be compared to the scores that the software gave cows, allowing the programme to be fine-tuned, Peyroux said.
The project was born during the last nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in August, when Peyroux and colleagues contacted farmers they had previously consulted about sheep facial recognition software.
They asked them what type 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 early on and save on costs, he said.
OmniEye recorded every time a cow walked across the milk platform and a farmer could watch videos to see if they had missed lameness or if treatment had worked, he said.
Farms were affected by labour shortages, because of workers being off sick with Covid-19, and border restrictions that stopped seasonal workers form entering New Zealand. This meant there were fewer labourers on farms that kept a watchful eye on cows. and the technology provided an alternative way to monitor herd health, he said.
Daily videos were fed into a reporting dashboard that delivered a 0 (healthy) to 3 (very lame) score for each cow, Peyroux said.
OmniEye research showed countrywide there were more than a million cows affected by lameness every year.
This cost farmers more than $600 per cow on average, with about $352 lost per cow in milk production alone, the research showed.
Costs would grow the longer lameness was untreated, Peyroux said.