Connected Pigs: Google Partner Agosto Deploys IoT Solution To Help Farmers Remotely Monitor Livestock

This article was originally published on CRN. Click here to read the original. 

Solution provider Agosto and sow management company Remote Insights have teamed up to create an IoT solution that will help farmers monitor and predict the health of their livestock.

The two companies linked up in 2016 to design and deploy a proof-of-concept solution that tracked the behavior of pigs for animal farm company Zoetis and Pipestone Systems.

“We leveraged core offerings on Google’s cloud as a starting point for the IoT solution,” said Agosto CTO Paul Lundburg. “It’s important to understand where you can leverage pre-existing components, like Google’s platform, and find the skill sets required to fill in the gaps.”

Remote Insights, formed in August 2016, offers a sow management solution to help take the guesswork out of health issues and help sick animals recover more quickly, said founder Jim Cairns.

The agriculture market faces an array of challenges – farms are struggling with a 40 percent turnover rate of workers, while employees must work long hours making minimum wage. Also, there is typically one employee to 300 sow ratio, making it extremely difficult to maintain an accurate record of livestock health and farrowing rate, said Cairns.

Cairns said he was first approached by Zoetis and Pipestone Systems to design the sow management system in 2016 – and brought in Google partner Agosto to leverage its expertise of scalable cloud services to the IoT solution.

“We had a great opportunity, but didn’t have a solution in hand to bring it to market … we knew what we wanted to do, and had the right skillsets in-house, but needed to quickly get a scalable cloud that could ingest and make sense of the data,” said Cairns.

Agosto tapped into several of Google’s Core IoT platform, including its open source IoT Message Broker enabling businesses to develop IoT applications with the MQTT protocol – a lightweight messaging protocol – as well as the cloud platform’s analytics and visualization tools.

The two companies' solution applied BLA tags to pigs’ ears in a farm, and these tags included a variety of sensors, including accelerometer and temperature sensors.

These sensors collect info on the pigs’ movements, body temperature, and other data to provide indicators of their overall health and whether they're ready for breeding, said Cairns.

That data goes through a gateway and then up to the cloud, where it is both collected and stored for research purposes – but also analyzed and sent back to farmers working at the sows, providing them with real-time alerts about whether pigs are showing signs of ill health.

“We wanted to research how this IoT solution could be applied to better optimize sow operations and improve the health of the sows, so we can better understand events of interest such as when they go into heat and the optimal time to inseminate,” said Cairns.

Moving ahead, the companies will bring the solution beyond proof of concept to customer trials in February, said Cairns.

“We want to go beyond research purposes and bring this solution to sow operations … pig farmers are dealing with health issues and limited employees on hand, and we see a myriad of additional use cases for our solution,” he said.