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Got A.I? Facial recognition now works on cows, with goal of better milk

Facial recognition is good for more than security features on Facebook and organizing your photo albums — the artificial intelligence-based technology could soon help ensure that milk in your fridge came from a well-fed cow. That’s right, facial recognition now works on cows. This week, agricultural company Cargill and machine-vision company Cainthus announced a partnership that will create an A.I. system for dairy farmers.

The image-recognition system is able to recognize a cow using both the animal’s pattern of spots and the cow’s actual face. The system takes a few seconds to recognize an individual cow, the companies said.

So why tell a specific cow apart from the rest of the herd? By giving the cameras the ability to determine which cow is which, a computer and camera system can monitor each bovine’s food and water intake, along with looking for odd behaviors and sending health alerts when something changes. The camera-based system can also use heat detection to monitor the herd’s health.

Giving computers the ability to monitor just how much food and water each cow receives turns what would be a several week manual process into something that happens almost in real time, according to the companies. With that information, dairy farmers can anticipate issues and use the information to adjust feeding — all factors that can help increase a farm’s efficiency, along with preventing animal loss.

The partnership will first focus on the computer-tracking system for the dairy industry, but the group plans to expand to additional types of animals in the future, including pigs and chickens as well as aquatic fish farms.

Cargill already has an app that helps farmers track factors like milk production and feed, a platform called Dairy Enteligen. Partnering with the machine vision company Cainthus, which is based in Dublin, will bring new management options that use a camera system, rather than manual data entries, to track data.

“Our shared vision is to disrupt and transform how we bring insights and analytics to dairy producers worldwide,” SriRaj Kantamneni, managing director for Cargill’s digital insights business, said in a press release. “Customers’ ability to make proactive and predictive decisions to improve their farm’s efficiency, enhance animal health and well-being, reduce animal loss, and ultimately increase farm profitability.”

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