Content brought to you by OmniEye
A productive lockdown experience has inspired Dunedin agritech company OmniEye to pivot from sheep to cows.
OmniEye used machine learning, artificial intelligence and software design to create facial recognition technology for sheep in 2019.
However, the timing wasn't quite right and the company discovered there wasn't a market for its product, OmniEye co-founder and chief executive Greg Peyroux said.
"That got us thinking - what should we be doing?" Peyroux told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
The first national lockdown in 2020 provided Peyroux with a captive audience, so he decided to find out what farmers actually wanted.
"I think I must have rung up hundreds of people and asked them - if you had a smart camera and some artificial intelligence what would you do?"
Peyroux said there was a "very clear consensus" that lameness in cattle was top of the list of concerns for farmers.
"Even the sheep farmers said lameness in cattle - particularly dairy cattle - is the way to go."
OmniEye took this feedback and got to work on a pilot scheme at Landsdown dairy farm, part of the Pāmu Waitepeka dairy complex in South Otago.
"That's been on there for nearly two years. We've then rolled it out to nine of their farms - there's a total of 10 Pāmu farms and we've got 20 or so pilot farms."
Omnieye's commitment paid off, as the pilot was almost finished and about to go fully commercial in July, Peyroux said.
It's not all about detecting lameness, as there are other innovative applications for Omnieye's technology.
"I think we learned pretty early on that being a one-trick pony wasn't enough... so OmniEye's now more an intelligent eye over livestock," Peyroux said.
"We are already developing a body condition camera, we're looking at broken tails and ... the cleanliness of an animal.
"Any changes in the coat pattern over time - we can pick them up and we can flag them, probably sooner than a human could."
Although the company was currently focused on cattle, it hasn't completely forgotten its Ovine origins.
Omnieye had technology that could aid the wool industry from its previous work with Pāmu's Hindon Station, Peyroux said.
"We do have some models to pick up dagginess and paint spots."
Peyroux believed there was still a market for camera work with sheep but the problem was they weren't brought in as often as cows, so were trickier to monitor.
"Twice a day for a cow - maybe six times a year for a sheep," he said.
He reckoned there was huge potential for the future of artificial intelligence on-farm.
"Any task that can be done on a farm could be assisted by some kind of an artificial intelligence."
This included helping with staff shortages.
"The messaging we're getting is that stockmanship is generally decreasing and getting access to good people is very, very tough," Peyroux said.
"And that's not just people, it's all resources that farming might need to be able to run a good business. So technology can fill that gap."
More about OmniEye
OmniEye is an on-farm intelligent monitoring system that allows farmers to better understand the overall health of their herd.
The first product, OmniEye Locomotion, detects changes in a cow's gait so that lameness or other animal welfare issues can be detected early.
Powered by artificial intelligence software, the non-intrusive camera and monitoring system collects tens of thousands of data points every day to deliver a 0 (healthy) to 3 (very lame) score for each cow.
The information can be used for drafting cows that need treatment or provided to a vet to remotely diagnose other issues. This results in less suffering, and less costly interventions and culling.