“IceRobotics was founded in 2002 with a simple mission: to improve dairy cattle welfare through our advanced wearable technology.
“In 2005 we first produced a sensor called IceTag, which has become the gold standard for measuring cow behaviour. It measures step count, standing and lying times and how much the cow moves and how much effort she has to put into moving. In 2010 we were able to use the rich data from this device to produce our IceQube sensor for commercial dairy cows at a more economic price point.
“Technology is more important to farming now than it’s ever been. Margins in the dairy industry are tight, farmers are being asked to do more with less, and our products help them monitor their cows automatically, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which even the best herdsman can’t manage.
“The impact of Covid-19 on some of our customers has been devastating, including farms going out of business. Many people visit farms through the week such as sales reps, parlour engineers, vets, hoof trimmers and so on, and farmers have to take lots of precautions to protect the health of visitors and farmworkers. Skilled herdsmen and milkers are hard to find and if someone catches Covid-19 and has to isolate for two weeks it can cause a critical labour shortage on the farm.
“Our sensors monitor many aspects of cow health and can often spot underlying problems earlier than humans can. By giving farmers the tools to intervene early it reduces the need for vets or hoof trimmers to visit the farm to treat severe lameness once the problem has become so bad the cow is visibly limping.
“Machine learning is already used in one of our algorithms. I would expect to see artificial intelligence and machine learning playing a greater role in future development. In time the algorithms should be able to spot all kinds of diseases in the data and suggest the right interventions. As sensor technology gets smaller and devices use less and less power, I can see devices being small enough to be placed under the skin of the animal to give even greater information in real time, such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and so on. Robotics is already in use on farms for milking cows, feeding and cleaning up their muck and in the future, I think we’ll see robot herders and fully automated tractors too.”