Farm animals may be the next big thing for MEMS sensors, now that international bovine-gear maker Dairymaster is hawking a stylish micro-electro-mechanical system collar for cows called the MooMonitor.
The stakes are huge, since there are over 250 million dairy cows worldwide, according to the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, and over 1 billion each of sheep and pigs, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. Dairymaster (Kerry, Ireland) is pioneering the use of MEMS sensors with cows while startups such as Anemon (Saint-Imier, Switzerland) are expanding from bovine into other livestock breeds.
"The MEMS industry should be taking a much closer look at agriculture and its related industries," said Alissa Fitzgerald, founder of the MEMS product development company A.M. Fitzgerald & Associates LLC (Burlingame, Calif.) "Agriculture could potentially be the next big market opportunity for MEMS sensors."
MooMonitors contain a MEMS accelerometer to monitor activity as well as RFID tags that not only track a cow's whereabouts, but lets them in-and-out to pasture and milking facilities through automatic doors keyed to their collars. However, the big money saver, according to Dairymaster, is the MooMonitor's ability to interface with a smartphone app that notifies farmers when a cow is ovulating.
According to Dairymaster, ovulation happens at night the majority of the time, often not giving farmers enough time to get a bull to the scene for calf making. By monitoring the restlessness and temperature of cows at night, the app can notify farmers 24/7 as to which cow needs a bull tonight, potentially saving the U.S. dairy industry alone more than $300 million a year.
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