Cainthus, an Irish startup focused on using computer vision and predictive imaging analysis to monitor the health and well-being of livestock has received an undisclosed investment from protein giant Cargill.
Cainthus uses various types of imaging equipment to monitor livestock operations while artificial intelligence and custom algorithms detect behavior in individual animals to monitor their health and alert the user when an action is required. The Cainthus system is able to detect food and water intake in individual animals as well as when the animals are in heat and more, says founder David Hunt.
Imagery can come from drones, satellites, CCTV, and smart devices, but the most common set-up in Cainthus trials is an installation of a few dozen CCTV cameras on dairy farms.
Within seconds Cainthus imaging technology can identify individual cows by their features, memorize their unique identity and record individual patterns and movements.
“If you boil down on a granular level we’re looking at rate of change of pixels. We train our AI to understand that a particular pixel pattern is a cow and when that pixel pattern exhibits a rate of change of movement that determines what the gesture is,” explained Hunt.
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Cargill is also entering into a partnership with the startup and has already run several trials with Cainthus technology. So far, Cainthus has tested their system in commercial dairy farms in New York, California, Canada, Italy, and Spain.
An internal team at Cargill has been searching for strategies to use digital technologies to fundamentally improve livestock and aquaculture operations for around eight months, Sri Kantamneni, managing director of digital insights at Cargill, told AgFundernews. He said that one of the most attractive qualities of Cainthus technology was its potential to apply to all animal protein sectors.
“We have hopes for taking their technology to pork poultry and aquaculture as well,” said Kantamneni.
Trials have shown that farmers can earn an additional $100-200 return per animal, per lactation cycle using the system and the most common issues that Cainthus detects are the cows running out of feed at night and not having enough water. Fixing these problems alone can bring a noticeable financial return, said Hunt.
“There is so much intervention opportunity with an individual cow that goes unidentified today.” Hunt explained that using Cainthus tech, not only are more issues mitigated, but dairy staff do not need to enter into the cows’ space unless the system suggests an intervention, leading to calmer animals and less patrolling by dairy workers.
This investment from Cargill is for the time being, in lieu of a formal funding round. Hunt told AgFunderNews that Cainthus had been very close to deals with other funders, but he felt that none could provide the support that a large strategic in the animal protein industry could, so he focused his efforts on finding a strategic partner rather than raising a venture round to reach commercialization.
“The hardest thing in agtech is route to market. If you’ve got a new product and a new face, that makes it difficult for a farmer. We felt that a big ag strategic would be the most useful to us. We talked to a number of strategics and a few were difficult to engage with. Cargill had clearly done their homework more than anyone else,” said Hunt.
Last year, Cargill released the first two elements in a suite of digital tools across its animal nutrition business — Dairy Enteligen and iQuatic — and is set to announce at least four more before the second half of this year, according to Kantamneni.
In its first iteration, Dairy Enteligen is a record-keeping farm management tool to help dairy farmers move away from notepads and excel sheets to record information about their herd and performance. iQuatic is an equivalent product for the aquaculture industry.
While Cargill is not focused on acquisitions as much as other agribusinesses have been to formulate the basis of their digital offerings — Monsanto acquiring Climate Corp and DuPont acquiring Granular are two examples — the company is considering acquiring relevant businesses, particularly on the sensing side, according to Kantamneni.