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This tech could save millions of piglets from accidentally being crushed

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A young pig

A young pig

Mali Maeder

Mali Maeder

A young pig

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During the course of the first three days of a piglet’s life, it’s greatest threat is it’s own mother. According to Sherrie Webb, director of animal welfare with the National Pork Board, 6 million newborn piglets are flattened by their mother annually. This is equivalent to 5% of all piglets in the world. Finally, there is a revolutionary solution to this conflict that has constantly troubled pig farmers of years.

Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinoza, classmates at the University of Iowa, had developed a technological solution that could potentially save numerous piglets from being crushed by their mother. Their concept was launched in 2015. The device, called SmartGuard, monitors wavelengths, rather than frequencies, of piglet squeals. The system also requires a light-weight belt to be strapped around the sow. The SmartGuard system first detects any distressing noises from the piglets. Then, through the belt, vibrations are sent to the sow’s stomach. Compared to a dog shock collar, the vibrations inflicted by the SmartGuard are 25% to 50% depleted. The purpose of the shock collar is to only mildly shock the sow to either stand up or move. If the vibrations don’t trigger an immediate response, then it will repeat the shock after five seconds, slightly increasing the intensity of the vibration. Rooda claims that his SwineTech had contributed with veterinarians to ensure the animal’s safety and welfare. Rooda states, “We think if those concerned learn about our background and product, they will see that this is a system that will significantly improve the well-being of sows, piglets, and farmers.” The SmartGuard monitors the squeals of a newborn piglet for a duration of four to six days. Rooda hopes that the system would be able to eventually train the sow to not accidently sit on her piglets in the future.

Rooda had spent his childhood growing up on a pig farm and had been an assistant manager on a pig farm in Waterloo, Iowa. He explains, “It drove me crazy… I realized if this was happening on my farm it was probably affecting all producers.” In the summer of 2014, he discovered that a sow had crushed eight of her own piglets. Rooda contemplated a solution to this situation during the next week and soon, SwineTech was developed. SwineTech had been developing this technology for about two years. During those two years, they had been raising money and testing systems on pig farms. Pilot tests resulted in a 74% success rate and had saved more than 1,000 piglets. The device also tracks the health of the sow wearing the device. SwineTech hopes to share their knowledge of this data with other large companies and agricultural organizations. They had recently achieved a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT prize for their innovation and are planning to release the device at the World Pork Expo in June. Jonathan Kim, a student at Kraemer middle school, comments, “This invention is very unique and may be the key to be able to save countless piglets from being crushed by their mother.”

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The student news site of Kraemer Middle School
This tech could save millions of piglets from accidentally being crushed