Sensor swilling cattle can alleviate world hunger

Slip a sonar device down a cow's gullet, link to big data, and you can keep livestock healthy. Good news for the planet's food crisis and for an industry that loses $60 billion a year to sick bovines.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Texas_Longhorn_Cow Ed Schipul Wiki.jpg
Slip this Texas Longhorn a sonar mickey, connect to big data, and you could start feeding a lot more people.
One way to help address the world hunger crisis: Keep cattle healthy. Cows get so routinely sick that they undermine the planet's tenuous food supply and cost the global economy an estimated $60 billion. U.S. startup company Vital Herd has a solution:

  • Slip a sonar device down a bovine's gullet and it will sit in the gut, emitting precise information about the digestion that's churning away or not.
  • Rig up a wireless receiver in the cattle yard, and you can capture that intelligence, spotting early warning signs that the animal isn't feeling so well. Intervene as necessary. 
  • Now, send the details into a massive international database -- you know, "big data" -- and you can develop best agricultural practices around the world, getting the most out of your cattle as you learn how, what and when to better feed them.

That's Vital Herd's vision as reported by the BBC in a story that quotes the company's chief executive, Brian Walsh:

"Forty per cent of dairy cows get ill each year. The cause can be early lactation, the type of feed they are receiving or one of a very large spectrum of health complications. Early warning or auto-detection can help minimise complications or avoid them altogether." (The BBC says Vital Herd is based in Texas; other reports put them in the U.S. state of Maine).

Vital Herd's technology could potentially alleviate a food shortage that threatens to worsen as the world's population swells from today's 7.1 billion to somewhere around 9.6 billion by 2050. It could also slash the annual $5 billion that bovine illnesses cost the U.S., and the $60 billion hit worldwide, according to the story.

To think that drastic improvements could all start by slipping Elsie a mickey.

Photo is from Ed Schipul via Wikimedia

Other solutions: 

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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