A pilot of a new automated on-farm monitoring system will be launched today at Fieldays 2021.
The technology was designed to provide farmers with an "intelligent eye" over the health of their herd, which allowed for early detection of conditions such as lameness.
Created by the makers of the world's first , Dunedin-based Iris Data Science, the technology was currently piloted on five dairy farms in the lower South Island with success – and the company said it hoped to extend this to around 50 farms.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was contributing $40,000 to the project through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.
"Our pilot farms are already seeing promising results, with farmers saying they are receiving valuable, accurate, and consistent information on the condition of their herds," Iris Data Science's co-founder and managing director Greg Peyroux said.
"We're seeking more farmers to help co-design this exciting new platform to ensure it meets the needs of farmers here and around the world."
The system used a non-intrusive on-farm camera and monitoring system that collected tens of thousands of data points from every cow, every day, to provide an "intelligent eye" over livestock.
The visual identification of the cows used a technique similar to the sheep facial recognition software earlier developed by the company.
The first product – OmniEye Locomotion – allowed for early detection of lameness and drafting of animals, which resulted in less suffering, and less costly interventions and culling.
Farmers received real-time information they could action – either automatically or manually drafting cows that needed treatment, and allowed for remote diagnostics for livestock by a vet.
Another product in the system – OmniEye Diary – gave visual verification of an animal's condition over time to provide better understanding of the herd's health.
"We understand lameness is a huge issue for farmers in New Zealand, costing thousands of dollars each year through a loss of production and is also a major animal welfare issue. OmniEye allows for early detection and is already working well in its pilot phase," Peyroux said.
"We're hoping to develop the technology further by bringing more farms into the pilot."
Powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence software, the proprietary system was set to revolutionise animal monitoring by allowing farmers to automatically observe and record traits and conditions that would typically require human intervention or stock handling to install a physical device on the animals.
This new innovation could help improve important animal welfare outcomes, MPI's Director Investment Programmes, Steve Penno said.
"Finding an easy solution for farmers to detect lameness early on in their herd provides a huge benefit as they'll be able to identify and treat the issue before it reaches a critical point."
Iris Data Science and the OmniEye display is at Fieldays Site ES6 in the Innovation Hub.