Dairy Robotics: Building tech for the new generation of farmers

23 Jan 2023

Cormac McHugh. Image: Dairy Robotics

Based in Kildare, Dairy Robotics is on a mission to modernise dairy farming using cutting-edge technologies such as AI.

Cormac McHugh started his own construction company at the age of 20 after becoming an engineer.

After running the business for more than 15 years, McHugh pivoted towards the wholesale renewable energy space and later began manufacturing products for the wider renewable energy sector.

His most recent project, however, is Dairy Robotics – a start-up on a mission to modernise the dairy industry using cutting-edge technology and help save the planet at the same time.

Based in Athy, Co Kildare, the company designs and manufactures animal health monitoring devices and robotics to automate the process of milking cows.

AI and udder technologies

With an estimated 300m dairy cows across the world, McHugh is betting on ‘new generation’ dairy farmers wanting to invest in technologies for their farm as fewer and fewer people are willing to work in them. The need to feed a growing global population, however, still remains.

“We need to have healthier, higher producing animals. Dairy Robotics’ Animal Health [an app-based tech used for body condition scoring of farm animals] can help achieve this through early detection of any health issues on dairy farms,” McHugh recently told SiliconRepublic.com.

“Early detection of issues promotes milk production, provides better reproductive efficiency and reduces emissions through increased efficiency.”

Body condition scoring is a common tool used in farm management to assess the physiology of animals and quantify their fat accumulation in order to determine their health and nutritional status. For McHugh, this process should be simple and straightforward.

“Our clever plug and play device can easily be integrated on any farm without any specialist requirements. As cows walk past our RFID [radio-frequency identification] reader, it identifies the animal’s unique ear tag,” he explained.

“This starts recording a video stream on our edge device in both 2D and 3D. After initial processing, the video streams are sent to the cloud for further near real-time processing through our artificial intelligence algorithms.”

The animal scores and action recommendations are then reported back to the farmer via an app or the existing farm management system. The app contains a database of the full herd and provides trends and feedback on individual as well as general herd health.

“Another benefit of our system is that we have various databases for the animals which can be country or cow breed specific. We are providing a growing database of courses of action for the farmer when an issue is flagged in the system – such as feed or protein rations and veterinary intervention required.”

High demand

Other than animal health monitoring, Dairy Robotics is also looking to improve and scale the labour-intensive task of milking cows using the power of AI. The tech is able to identify individual udders for better cup attachment and even monitor any changes to milk output.

According to McHugh, this is an area of high demand. “The adoption of advances in technology in this space ensures continued growth opportunity. This is illustrated through the large growth on robotic milking machine which is expected to double in a five-year period,” he said.

Currently taking part in the AgTechUCD accelerator programme until the end of this month, Dairy Robotics is looking to launch its product in mid-2023. Interest in its tech, however, has already started coming in – all the way from across the Atlantic.

“There has already been significant interest from numerous market sectors across the world, reaching out to us for more information,” said McHugh, who plans to raise significant investment this year.

“This ranges from individual dairy farmers to potential US distributors and even some national dairy boards looking for additional information.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic