Posted: January 01, 2012
Tech startup: DVM SystemsBy Eric Peterson
INITIAL LIGHT BULB A team of wireless industry veterans came together with a veterinarian to launch DVM Systems, aimed at wireless detection of illnesses in dairy cattle.
A Boulder firm developed the core technology for Goodyear for use in tires in planes and performance cars. DVM does not plant the sensors in tires, but rather in the second compartment of a cow's stomach.
IN A NUTSHELL For decades, dairymen have monitored their cows' body temperatures to detect the early onset of illnesses that might lead to diminished capacity to produce milk.
"There's one factor that's most important to the health in a mammal, and that's temperature," says DMV CEO Kevin Wild. "This is the latest evolution in temperature detection."
The sensor resides in a cow's stomach permanently and delivers information via passive RFID to DMV's semi-customizable software, TempTrack. A proprietary algorithm takes each animal's baseline temperature into account and sends out alerts on cows with elevated temperatures.
"A 1,000-cow dairy might have seven or eight alerts on a given morning," Wild says. "Those are the cows most likely to be at risk. That might be before any other symptoms exist." The farmer then uses a handheld reader or another method to locate and isolate the at-risk animals.
The prime illnesses DVM helps prevent are mastitis (inflammation of the udder) and metritis (inflammation of the uterus). Future iterations will be tied to reproductive status, Wild says.
"By identifying mastitis early, you have a choice of treatment," he adds. "You can limit the use of antibiotics. That's an ongoing issue in the dairy industry. They're very keen on minimizing the amount of antibiotics they use." Organic farmers are even keener on early detection because it greatly improves the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments.
The system can pay for itself in six months, says Wild, estimating a 250 percent return on investment. DMV has several installations at dairies with about 500 cows, and one that has 2,500. The company is in talks with dairies 20 times that size. "It's very extensible," Wild says.
Shelton Dairy of LaSalle uses DVM's technology on 40 percent of its herd. "It's allowed us to detect diseases earlier than was previously possible," says Dave Smith, the dairy's general manager. "We've discovered cows being sick before they knew they were sick."
Smith says the system will likely pay for itself in the short term, adding, "It could have a revolutionary impact on the industry."
THE MARKET There are more than 9 million dairy cows in the United States and 180 million worldwide, Wild says. DVM is currently working with customers in the U.S. as well as New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom; the company is in talks with dairies in the Middle East, South America and Europe. The technology has potential uses in other animals with more than one stomach, a group that includes sheep and other livestock.
FINANCING More than 40 individuals have invested in DVM systems since its launch; the company is not currently pursuing additional outside capital.
where Greeley | FOUNDED April 2009 | web www.dvmsystems.com
Quote of the note: "We're constantly improving our algorithms based on the health data we collect. We now have over 2 million data points. We believe it's the largest collection of dairy-cow data in the world." - DVM Systems CEO Kevin Wild
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com