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With These Animal Fitbits, Farmers Can Recognize The Patterns In Dairy Cow Mooovements

Building a “deep learning” platform for livestock.

Cows are going to be part of the network, like cars and buildings (though they’re not things, as in the “internet of things”). Livestock animals are too valuable not to be tracked and monitored, and now we have the technology to do it unobtrusively. Welcome to the Internet of Ruminants.

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Amsterdam-based Connecterra looks to have a jumpstart on other players we’ve seen in the “quantified ag” space. It has sensors to pick the movements of cows and say whether the animals are eating, sleeping, walking, and so on. But it’s also building what looks like a sophisticated “deep learning” platform to help farmers decide if the cows are eating correctly, ready for insemination, or going lame.

“When a cow is eating or ruminating or walking, there is a very specific pattern that exists for that movement, which is where our algorithm learns,” says co-founder Yasir Khokhar. “Behavior changes are indicators of health problems. A healthy cow that’s following a set routine will produce more milk, bottom line.”

Khokhar, who’s originally from Pakistan, was living with his wife in Dubai when the couple decided it was time to shift gears. They moved to a small village, called De Kaag, in the Netherlands. And that’s where Khokhar started to watch cow movements a lot (as one does). “It’s a small village in the center of Holland. It’s got about 150 people and 400 cows. My backyard was basically a farm,” he says.

Khokhar formed the company, with other “techies,” and started training the software. They plan to launch in the first half of 2016, with a no-fee-upfront service product. Khokhar says the system can tell farmers when they should be inseminating their cows (earlier in the heat cycle is better from a cost point of view). It can show what effect different feeds have on behavior (there’s an optimal digestive pattern). And it can bench one farm’s data against another equivalent farm, showing dairy farmers how well they’re doing.

Welcome to Big Brother, cow edition.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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