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January 12, 2022 Innovation & Technology

Precision ranching with BETSY

Digital has replaced a lot of handwritten records, but move away from the trusty, dog-eared, fit-in-your-pocket farm supply store cow record notebook? Well, it looks like even that ‘sacred cow’ has got some stiff competition… from BETSY.

BETSY, or ‘Bovine Expert Tracking and Surveillance,’ brings the same approach applied in precision farming to the ranching game.

“Betsy is an AI system – which is artificial intelligence, not the other AI,” clarifies Mokah Shmigelsky, with a smile. The idea was sparked over a campfire coffee discussion with her prairie-based ranching cousins, as they wished for a technological way to help identify their animals. Shmigelsky and her husband Geoffrey called the company OneCup AI, on the premise the cattle herd could be monitored over one cup of coffee in the morning. They began by testing video footage of their family’s ranch animals, discovering AI could differentiate and recognize Angus cattle on just their appearance, with 100 percent accuracy.

So they developed OneCup, a patent-pending, vision-based 360 Live ID platform, which is effectively face recognition for animals, for tracking and surveillance. BETSY can identify beef and dairy cattle from almost any angle and at a considerable distance.

But if cameras are installed and working 24-7 on the ranch, why stop there? The Shmigelskys used their tech background to look for other ways to maximize the data collection potential.

“We’ve been working with ranching partners ever since to find out what value BETSY could provide them that they maybe didn’t have before.”

Mokah explains BETSY first identifies the animals in your herd, then automatically begins to collect data on those animals – things like movement, health, and growth. The metrics you might want to know on your herd are all tied back to the individual animal and can be checked online. Data can be pulled up on a single animal, a group of animals or your entire herd to see what’s going on, and for overall herd management.

Signals like lameness, coughing, nutrition intake, and growth rates are all observed, along with estrous activity or calving. If an animal is missing for a day or two, then BETSY texts the user.

“Pretty much anything that you can see on your animals, BETSY also can see, and proactively notifies you of anything you want to know,” says Shmigelsky.

With some first-hand familiarity with real ranchers and tech challenges, Shmigelsky knew their product had to be ready to use out of the box, with no complicated setup, and provide easy-to-find data. She describes their system as ‘plug and play,’ once the cameras are mounted, plus it uses low bandwidth to make it accessible even in areas with sketchy internet.

“The cameras are placed where the animals congregate, so at a watering station, salt lick or mineral block, where the cameras can see the animals one to two times a day. The wifi extension allows the cameras to be placed further away from the wifi, so we can get animals that aren’t necessarily right next to the barnyard.”

Only a little over a year into development, OneCup AI has 20 beta sites across Canada monitoring various livestock types, including sheep, hogs, bison elk and horses. Research partners include both Lakeland and Olds Colleges. They’ve also got an early adopter program as they seek 100 cattle ranches to sign on with the BETSY system for a year. Interest has been high, but there are still some spots available for the program.

“We are developing our phenotype tracking as well right now,” adds Shmigelsky. “We are working with the Canadian Angus Association to develop automated scoring of teats and udders, as well as foot and claw. This will allow unbiased and automated scoring of phenotypes to optimize herd decisions. The phenotype tracking AIs will be included in the BETSY system once they’ve been developed and tested, so early adopters will have that functionality as soon as it becomes available.”

Developed in western Canada, there’s been a lot of international interest in the system already.

“There is nothing like it in the market right now, and people are very excited about the potential.”

For more information on BETSY, you can visit www.onecup.ai or call 1-866-BETSYAI.

This article was first published in Volume 1 Issue 4 edition of ABP Magazine (November 2021). Watch for more digital content from the magazine on ABP Daily.

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