The global pork market is worth over EUR 100 billion. Given the drive for high productivity from animals concentrated in enclosed spaces, to reduce illness spreading pig breeders routinely use preventative drugs, including antibiotics. Animals excrete drug traces in their faeces which through the agricultural cycle (as fertiliser) enter the food chain. And, as has been well reported, microorganisms gain immunity through repeated exposure to antibiotics rendering the antibiotics ineffective. ThermoEye engineers have designed a contactless Internet of Things system to monitor animal temperatures using cheap bolometric sensors. By detecting fever early, ThermoEye helps farmers to find ecologically friendly alternatives to antibiotics. The team currently monitor over 2 000 pigs using a range of systems tailored to different scenarios. The current solution is precise to 0.4 degrees Celsius. EU support enabled the team to prepare a feasibility study, as well as develop a more reliable and stable product and AI-based models.
The monitoring system
ThermoEye is a contactless system that monitors the welfare of pig herds. Distributed bolometric cameras, connected to a central server, record pig temperatures and, on discovery of anomalies, mark the suspected animal with a dye, immediately alerting farmers and vets via text message or an email. “This allows for quick interventions, such as removing the individuals for treatment, significantly reducing the risk of the illness spreading,” says Przemysław Sękalski, project coordinator. The bolometric sensors work like infrared cameras, measuring the amount of energy given out by a body. The system offers temperature monitoring of every single animal in a herd 24/7, with high accuracy. “We have now got the cost of a single device down to between EUR 400 and 1 000, depending on the version, and we can monitor up to 500 animals with one device, depending on how it is mounted,” says Sękalski. “We have even customised a solution for different stages of pig breeding, including a special unit to increase the birth rate amongst pregnant sows.” The ThermoEye system can be mounted on weighted cages or corridors (in which it monitors every animal under the sensor). There is also an option to attach it to feeders or water stations. For sows, it is mounted in individual cages above the animals’ heads.
A Win-Win-Win solution for farmers, veterinarians and consumers
With ThermoEye, farmers maximise their investment, customers receive antibiotic-free pork (without cost rises) and vets obtain new tools for herd monitoring. With the recent EU Parliament ban on preventive antibiotics to start in 2022, ThermoEye is fully in alignment with the EU strategy. The team have collected over 300 million pig temperature samples, developing AI models to judge an animal’s condition. They are working with the Poznań University of Life Sciences, Poland and Polish farmers to adapt the system to more precise breeding cycles and have already signed a distribution agreement with one of the biggest pig infrastructure producers in Poland, the company Wesstron. The team are looking for investors to help them further optimise cost, reliability and stability, as well as improve the AI algorithms, by testing their models in various farms and infrastructures. When it comes to monitoring the welfare of pigs to identify health issues early and so cut unnecessary antibiotic use – ThermoEye goes the whole hog.
ThermoEye, pigs, illness, antibiotics, farm, disease, sensors, livestock, herd, pork, animal welfare