New Zealand technology research firm, Teck Labs, has developed an iPhone and iPad app, named Betty, that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to help dairy farmers diagnose health problems with their herd.
Farmers using the app are presented with series of questions about their animals and the app combines their responses with regional farm and weather data to produce a list of the most likely causes of disease in their animals.
Betty’s creator, Dr Jonathan Wong, said the idea was born out of frustration while he was working as a dairy veterinarian. “There are a lot of farmers out there who are reluctant to call a vet early, especially if a problem is perceived to be minor,” he said.
“With Betty we can help farmers decide whether or not their sick cow is an emergency and to take immediate action, or connect them with a local vet if need be.”
He suggested the app might be able to perform better than a veterinarian because, when widely used, it will ‘see’ many more animals than any single vet.
“While a typical dairy vet sees up to ten cases a day, the Betty AI engine has the ability to assess hundreds of sick cows every hour- and is continuously refining her algorithm with each one.”
Teck Labs says Betty has been on trial with a core group of 31 farmers that is providing on-farm feedback to improve the app’s artificial intelligence engine.
One user, Samuel Woods, who runs a 600-cow herd in Canterbury, said: “The reality is there are many inexperienced workers entering the dairy industry. With millions of dollars worth of livestock to manage, you need to give them all the tools to find sick cows early.”
Betty is presently available free from the New Zealand iTunes store. Wong says he plans to refine Betty and to make it available overseas. “And then, maybe, we’ll release an app for cat owners too!”