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Have you herd? Smartbow uses high-tech ear tag to monitor animal health

August 24, 2018

Smartbow aims to help farmers identify health issues within the herd quickly with high-tech ear tags. 

The following is an edited transcript of Tom Martin's interview with Wolfgang Auer, CEO of ag-tech startup Smartbow. Click below to hear the full audio:




Tom:              I'm talking with Wolfgang Auer, CEO of the Austria-based startup Smartbow, one of the startups in the 2018 Pearse Lyons Accelerator program. He is here to talk to us about his company's center technology designed to help the farmer stay well ahead of problems and make reliable decisions. We thank you for being with us, Wolfgang.



Wolfgang:      Thank you very much.



Tom:              What problem does Smartbow intend to solve?



Wolfgang:      Smartbow is addressing the problem of early detection when animals get sick. With our technology — ear tags, real-time positioning and artificial intelligence — we can watch over each animal, like my grandmother did with 10 dairy cows on our farm. We can detect if the animal feels sick earlier. We detect illness in the animal days before they are really sick.



Tom:              What is the technology? How does it work?



Wolfgang:      We have an ear tag on the animal, and that ear tag is measuring the movement of the animal's ear. We know exactly if the animal is eating, resting or ruminating. With our positioning system, we know, every second, where the animal is with an accuracy of three feet. We combine all of that data so we can detect any minor changes in behavior.



Tom:              I was going to ask you: why the ear? You've partially answered that. But do the ears move in a way that can tell you things?



Wolfgang:      Yes. It's very accurate. Our accuracy is about 99 percent because the ear is the most accurate place we can measure everything that the animal is doing.



Tom:              The Smartbow technology detects changes up to five days before the farmer or the veterinarian can see it. How does that early detection impact a farmer's operation and success?



Wolfgang:      The farmer can take the animal out of the herd and can bring it to a separate place, like a hospital. Then the animal can get back into the operation sooner, so the farmers aren't losing as much money. A sick cow doesn't produce milk.



Tom:              So, the farmer has all this data coming into them. Are they trained in how to analyze it, how to make sense of it?



Wolfgang:      The data is analyzed by artificial intelligence. We train this artificial intelligence and the farmer gets only an alert. With the positioning system, he knows in real time where the animal is and can identify the animal very quickly.



Tom:              Tell us about your business model.



Wolfgang:      The business model is very simple: Smartbow is a service business model, and we have an initial payment for the hardware. This is very low; it's about €25 per ear tag. Then we charge the farmer a monthly fee per cow.



Tom:              Have you received funding?



Wolfgang:      We have received funding. I'm also financed by my family. We make plastic products.



Tom:              And have you taken the product to market?



Wolfgang:      Yes. So far, we have sold more than 100,000 ear tags in 40 countries on four continents. We have about 400 clients, who have anywhere from eight dairy cows to 5,000.



Tom:              And how about expansion plans?



Wolfgang:      The plan is to expand into the USA and China.



Tom:              Tell us about the Pearse Lyons Accelerator Program and how it's influenced your business.



Wolfgang:      We work together with nutrition companies, and we are doing some trials with their internal accelerators. We can see that our technology is leveraging their technology. If we combine both, we can save a lot of money.



Tom:              Wolfgang Auer, CEO of the Austria-based startup Smartbow. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.



Wolfgang:      Thank you.



Smartbow was one of 10 startup companies participating in the 2018 Pearse Lyons Accelerator program, which provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for disruptive ag-tech startups. The program takes leading innovators from around the world to Dogpatch Labs, a startup hub in Dunboyne, Ireland, for a three-month accelerator that offers workspace, mentorship, networking and potential investment. The experience culminates at ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A., where startups are selected to pitch to an international crowd of 4,000 potential investors, journalists and influencers from the agribusiness industry.



Watch the 2018 Pearse Lyons Accelerators pitch at ONE18. Sign up for the Alltech Idea Lab below:



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