Matthew Rooda, winner of the Kevin Plank’s Cupids’s Cup entrepreneurship competition, developed a technology that could reduce piglet death. The 23-year-old University of Iowa student founded SwineTech, which is a wearable device that alerts mother sows that they are sitting on their piglet.
The device features a monitor that detects piglets’ high-pitched squeals. When a squeal or squeak is detected, an algorithm will differentiate between the sounds to determine if a piglet is getting crushed. If the algorithm detects the associated sound of a distressed piglet, a device will deliver a vibration to the sow via the strap around the sow’s midsection. The vibration is similar to those delivered by an electric shock dog collar. A total of two shocks are delivered within 5 to 6 minutes of each other. If the sow refuses to stand up, an alert will be transmitted to the farmers authorized smartphone or tablet.
Eighteen investors have contributed a total of $1 million to Rooda’s invention, with dozens of pork producers committed to order. Rooda has plans to launch his device within the next three months and an unveiling at the 2018 World Pork Expo.
“There’s a lot of anxiety. You just took money from 18 people,” said Rooda. “It’s actually more pressure now. When you start out, there’s nothing to lose.”
According to a research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s, Donald Lay, an estimated 10 percent of commercially raised piglets die before they are weaned. Nearly 50 percent of the deaths are linked to crushing.
SwineTech has the potential to help pork producers and farmers save the lives of their piglets.