By Jean-Paul MacDonald
Alberta's innovative startup, iClassifier, is on a mission to change the dairy industry in Canada. Having launched in 2021, the company's game-changing technology introduces artificial intelligence (AI) to farming, offering automated imaging systems to assess dairy cows' health.
Historically, assessing physical cow traits, crucial indicators of health, was a manual, potentially inconsistent process. Now, thanks to iClassifier's groundbreaking technology and with significant backing from national not-for-profit Mitacs, these evaluations are set to become more accurate and consistent.
The system utilizes cameras - on mobile apps or specially designed stalls - to capture cow images. These images are then processed using unique AI algorithms, evaluating up to 25 different traits per cow, including bone quality and udder texture. Detailed health reports provided directly to farmers.
Reza Sabbagh, iClassifier CEO and a professor at the University of Alberta, commented on the technology's potential impact. "Automating this process allows for more frequent and accurate evaluations, leading to longer-living, more productive cows," Sabbagh stated. Ghader Manafiazar, co-founder and animal scientist, further elaborated on the benefits, noting that classified cows can yield a profit of $350 more annually compared to non-classified ones.
One of the keys to the startup's rapid innovation is its collaboration with Mitacs. This partnership offers access to top post-secondary talent, bridging the gap between innovative ideas and actionable research. Emran Hamzehnezhadabkenari, a Mitacs intern from the University of Alberta, is applying cutting-edge techniques like deep learning to detect early signs of lameness in cattle.
iClassifier's debut in the market is highly anticipated, with pilot testing slated for a Canadian dairy farm soon. The company also aims to showcase its system at the globally renowned Gitex Northstar event in Dubai, with plans to expand the technology to other livestock in the future.
Through advanced AI and innovative collaborations, iClassifier promises a future where dairy farms are smarter, more efficient, and focused on the well-being of their herds.