back to article After demonstrating a facial recognition system that works on cows, moo-chine learning pioneer seeks growth funding

Irish computer vision and AI agriculture specialist Cainthus hopes to raise $50m after launching a facial recognition tool for cows. The Dublin-based startup, which is backed by global agri-giant Cargill, is on the lookout for more funding to expand the use of its automation technology in the farming industry, CEO Aidan …

  1. b0llchit Silver badge
    Coat

    Bovine detection grid

    One must milk the investors while you can. The bovine have already been optimized for that purpose. Next up, sheep to herd the masses.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Bovine detection grid

      It's a Brave Moo World....

      Mines the white one with the milk float drivers cap...

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Bovine detection grid

        Nice to see the obvious puns being milked for all they're worth

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bovine detection grid

      I hear the backers are Jus Teat. Of course that could be a load of bull.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Will it help cheat at ...

    ... Bovine Bingo? Asking for a friend.

  3. macjules Silver badge
    Joke

    AI?

    Could this be the first time that someone threw loads of VC cash at an Artificial Intelligence startup, only to later discover that AI stood for Artificial Insemination?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: AI?

      VCs do tend to sp**k a lot of cash at money holes.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Usually in these reports its the other end of the animal that's more appropriate.

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    a facial recognition tool for cows

    "Say Cheese"

    The dAIry industry will soon be creaming it in, and you'd be wise to buy a steak in it as you'll be making money until the cows come home.

  6. Refugee from Windows
    Coat

    Must have been a slack day

    Hmm. Cows wander round with unique ear tags, also activity monitoring collars with connectivity and may even have a passive tag in an ear for the parlour feeder to identify them. Has this project really been necessary? However with all these backups you can easily see how well it's working.

    Maybe they are just convenient targets, there are plenty of example available but such as deer (wild or farmed) or even badgers, but non-farmed species are the better choice.

    I'll get my coat, the calves need feeding and the food mixing for the girls won't happen on its own.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Must have been a slack day

      "food mixing for the girls won't happen on its own"

      Depending on how many calves you have, you might want to look into automatic calf feeders. Works for a friend with about 100ish milkers at any given time.

    2. mittfh

      Re: Must have been a slack day

      "However with all these backups you can easily see how well it's working."

      Maybe the unstated reasoning is for a larger scale trial to refine and improve the technology, in a more diverse range of environments than the (likely) single farm they developed their system on, while also providing a source of revenue for them?

      Your mention of wild animals suggests one potential future development - Hook it up to cameras on a fleet of remotely operated vehicles to track individuals and herds on larger estates and farms where the livestock are free to roam hills, forests and moors rather than fields - and maybe even in future UAVs to track them from above (although obviously in that case you'd need a very high definition camera or fly very low).

    3. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Must have been a slack day

      Ear tags and chips can be removed, however, if your system can recognise a cow visually that could be useful to prove it was yours before it was rustled.

      On the other hand I don't even know enough about this subject for a half-decent pun, so I'll just moosey along now.

      1. Another User

        Re: Must have been a slack day

        No, these tags cannot be removed because then you cannot sell the animal to be slaughtered. The whole life cycle of the animals have to be tracked. Remember Mad Cow Disease?

        This new technology is interesting for roaming animals but as you can’t control the dispense of food for individual animals it is of limited use. As a test bed it is interesting because you can automatically check if all of the animals are identified correctly.

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: interesting for roaming animals

          No, they can be tagged. Tags are 100% reliable. Facial recognition is rubbish in comparison.

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Why?

    For thousands of years, stock farmers kept their animals in open fields and monitored them by going into the fields and looking at them (or sending their herdsmen to do so). There are vast numbers of reminiscences even from quite recently that refer to cows getting named and treated almost like pets through familiarity, which is actually good for the cows and the farmers as both are social animals. The intrusion of "technology" is eliminating the humanity and reducing the effort expended, probably without any significant improvement in animal welfare or productivity.

    I personally feel that "laptop farming" from an office while sensors and software do all the monitoring and robots do all the feeding and milking is unlikely in the long run to prove itself, primarily because dealing effectively with living things doesn't follow consistent logical rules. However IT, and particularly AI (in the IT sense) are the "steam" or "electricity" of the current culture. In the 19th century these were widely assumed to be capable of solving every societal problem. They weren't - they solved some and created others.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      It's a con, once more to enrich VCs and increase debt. The cost of these trinkets, like automated milking parlours is astronomical. It's OK if you're an investor in a giant farm with 1000 milkers and you only want to employ one herdsman.

      What none of them [ML] spot are the tiny changes in behaviour or appearance that someone who spends time with the herd will notice as indicators of impending mastitis or lameness for example. What they will show you is a cow with hot teat[s] that already has an infection.

      Farmers like so many others can be seduced by headline figures, "ooh, look, you can get x litres/cow/year with this feed/technology/whatever" but what's the cost per litre of production!? Holsteins are notoriously lame and require lots of feed, Angus not so much. Look at the TCO and you'd never go for automated Holstein milking.

      1. Refugee from Windows

        Re: Why?

        You may have one herdsman, but you'll have someone in on a regular basis to come and fix the robots. Nothing like a message telling you at 1 am that the milk filter on Robot #3 needs attention.

        Dairy cows like their contact with their people, beef cattle have left contact and therefore are a little more antisocial.

        Angus? No you mean Ayrshires, and don't forget Shorthorns - they do better on supplemented grazing rather than Formula-1 Holsteins.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ayrshires?

          Nope, but they are actually Angus/Jersey cross, not pure Angus. Apologies. Although to a novice some of them look just like old school little Angus.

      2. Rustbucket

        Re: Why?

        Automated milking sheds allow the cows to come in and be milked on their time table, not the farmers. Over the last century or more there has been a massive increase in the milk production per animal via selective breeding, but the animals are still only milked on the old schedule of twice a day. This means for the last hour or two the cows' udders are distended with milk and girls are really "busting to go".

        With automated milking the cows can wander in when they feel like it and be much more comfortable as a result. An Australian documentary I saw claimed that herds in automated sheds had an average of 15% greater milk production per animal with one individual achieving a 25% milk increase.

        >>>" Hmm. Cows wander round with unique ear tags, also activity monitoring collars with connectivity and may even have a passive tag in an ear for the parlour feeder to identify them. Has this project really been necessary?"

        It sounds like just a few cameras with facial recognition could replace most of the stuff you've listed above.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ Rustbucket

          Not sure where you're post is coming from. yes the cows maybe more comfortable. But, are you not re-enforcing the initial post? Huge headline figures of "up to 25% increase", but no mention of the cost of that increased output. Or the lack of contact.

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          Automated milking doesn't need facial recognition. This is a poorer solution than tags which are legally required.

  8. Spanners Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Forget Facial

    How about fecal recognition?

    Law abiding dog owners like me need help to deal with accusations...

    1. Another User

      Re: Forget Facial

      Nothing new. Already this kind of ... is turned into money.

      “Need to track down a dog poo-petrator? There’s a DNA test for that”

      https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/27/dog-dna-test-pooprints

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Lee D Silver badge

    Not being funny, but don't cows all have unique tags on them anyway for other reasons?

    Why not just stick an RFID or barcode on them? Why rely on dodgy facial recognition and expensive cameras?

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Facepalm

      because A.I. (see icon)

  11. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    Discrimination?

    The real question is can it recognize Black Angus Cattle faces as accurately as British White Cattle faces?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Welsh don’t need face recognition for sheep. It’s not the end they’re interested in.

    “Brace for entry, boyo!”

    Baaaaah! Squelch.

  13. Mage Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Madness.

    WHY!

    Every cow, heifer, bullock, bull etc has to have an ear tag. Unlike contactless cash cards and replacing barcodes on supermarket products*, the RFID is perfect technology for cattle, far far more reliable than so called AI facial recognition.

    [* Those do have value if done securely and if product RFID has a unique serial number instead of a receipt for proof of purchase. Return to ANY branch and no doubt if stolen, fraud etc, if it's made secure.]

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