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Posted on June 19, 2017

New Zealand farmers using AI to manage their animals

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A New Zealand made mobile app is being used by local dairy farmers to replace veterinarians. Available on the App Store, the Betty app uses machine learning algorithms to help dairy farmers diagnose sick cows in their herd.
 
Farmers using the app are presented with series of questions, with the response combined 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. 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."
 
The app has been on trial with a core group of 31 farmers, who are providing on-farm feedback to improve the app's artificial intelligence engine. "It's all about experience," Wong explains. "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."
 
One dairy farmer trialling the app is Samuel Woods, who runs a 600-cow herd in Canterbury. He says, "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."
 
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The Betty app is currently available on the New Zealand Apple App Store. The long term plan, according to Wong, is to improve the Betty AI engine before releasing it overseas. "And then, maybe, we'll release an app for cat owners too!"
 
Source and top image: Teck Labs