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SwineTech is using artificial intelligence to save piglets

Every year millions of piglet die from being accidentally crushed by their mothers. A Cedar Rapids based agtech startup is looking to change that.

SwineTech is using sensor-based technologies to prevent piglet deaths. SwineTech’s award-winning product, SmartGuard, uses AI to read data through sensors and can locate exactly where a piglet is getting crushed and will alert the sow to roll over or stand up through the use of a vibratory signal.

Data collected from SwineTech’s SmartGuard device provides key information and metrics of the sow’s behavior, health, and environment that she lives in. This information allows producers to know more than ever before and predict life-changing events and behaviors, such as the detection of respiratory illness and the time of birthing.

SwineTech launched their product about ten months ago and have protected over 10,000 liters since then.

Early last year, SwineTech raised $1.3 million in funding from a range of investors, farmers and accelerators including Quake Capital from New York, the Iowa Startup Accelerator — which SwineTech took part in three years ago — and the AgVentures Alliance.

“We’re not scaling right now, but we are releasing to the influencers in the industry doing everything we can do to get supporting evidence that our product works for you, no matter what your genetics, farm size or company are.”

SwineTech’s technology is currently displayed in the National Inventors Hall of Fame where they won the Arrow Innovation Prize at the 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition.

Coming March of next year, SwineTech is releasing a second version of Smart Guard.

“It’s streamlining the entire process for employees on the farm, making things more efficient for us,” Matthew Rooda, founder and CEO of SwineTech said. “We’re going to be able to collect information for the producers, enabling them to do things that they never thought they could do before.”

SwineTech will be doing a demonstration of the 2.0 version of their product in January at the Iowa Pork Congress.

“Two to three years down the road, we want to be the complete eyes and ears of the farrowing barn,” Rooda said. “Anything that has to do with health, behavior or the mortality of pigs on the farm is something we’re going to be a very big part of.”

SwineTech is using artificial intelligence to save piglets | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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