Startup Smartbow monitors cattle health with digital ear tags

Smartbow, has sold some 100,000 tags and in 2017 sold the business to US animal health firm Zoetis, a unit of Pfizer. Zoetis reported sales of $5.3 billion last year and has sniffed out a rapidly growing business with global potential.
But Smartbow’s cornerstone product is pricey. Traditional tags, usually made of plastic and marked with a number, sell for $26 for 100 pieces on Amazon. The Smartbow business model is a subscription system in which the smart tag costs a one-off sum of €5,000 plus €4 per year, per cow, for service and support. While it still looks like a normal ear tag, towards the base of the ear is a small, white device that collects information.

A sensor in the tag detects the movement of the cow’s ear, which varies according to whether the animal is eating, drinking, ruminating or suckling a calf. Smartbow’s engineers filmed the animals performing all those activities and developed an algorithm that informs farmers per computer or smartphone not only where the cows are but exactly what they are up to.
From these figures, other information can be deduced: If the computer registers that a cow is eating less, lying down more rarely, walking more and apparently looking for something, it’s a sign that she is in heat. Life-threatening injuries and conditions can also be detected in this way. Mr. Auer is also working with veterinary scientists at the University of Vienna to develop a self-learning system using artificial intelligence to supply relevant data on animal health.

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