In a handful of countries around the world, including Brazil, there are more cows than people. That helps explain why Bovcontrol, a three year-old Brazilian startup that offers online data about cattle to farmers and ranchers, is catching on. Think of it as a Google Analytics for livestock.
Founder Danilo Leao started taking care of his family’s land at age 15, manually tracking animals with ear tags and a spreadsheet. Bovcontrol takes that same process and puts it on steroids.
First, farmers input basic data about each cow, including birth date, vaccinations, medication, pregnancies, and weight, into the Bovcontrol app, tracking the animals with whatever form of ID is available (a tattoo, ear tag, or implanted chip, for example). Information can be saved offline and then uploaded to the cloud once a farmer has returned into cell service. That’s where things get interesting.
Once data is entered, the system can start crunching the numbers into graphs and timelines, making it easier for farmers to know what’s going with their animals. Let’s say a farmer wants more data on its pregnant cows. If a group of cows is inseminated at the same time, Bovcontrol can track the cows as they go through pregnancy, even predicting when they’ll give birth with a push alert to the farmer’s cell phone.
Already, over 3,000 farms across the world use Bovcontrol technology–but the company’s smartphone app (Android-only for now) is catching on in some places more than others. According to Leao, Americans use the Bovcontrol app ten times more than Brazilians, since so many U.S. farmers already have smartphones.
The information that Bovcontrol provides can be useful for more than just farmers.The company’s next tool: a data platform for food providers that want to know where their beef comes from. “We can can track the origin of an animal, and restaurants [and grocery stores] are looking for that from a macro perspective. They want to know where a cow came from and how it was managed,” says Leao.
He cites McDonald’s as an example of a company with specific cattle tracking needs. “They want to track cattle from a region that is involved in deforestation, and they say that farmers need to prove for a certain period of time that the animal is grazed in one specific farm,” he explains.
The company is also currently in talks with Walmart, which has committed to sourcing beef that doesn’t contribute to deforestation in the Amazon. Other companies could use Bovcontrol’s platform to make sure that farmers are producing meat to their customers’ tastes. They could also reassure customers that they only sell grass-fed, environmentally-sound meat.
And with a $40 billion beef production industry, Bovcontrol has plenty of room to expand.
Editor’s note: This article originally stated incorrectly that there are 40 billion heads of cattle worldwide. There is actually a $40 billion beef production industry.