Facial recognition for cows is latest Cargill-backed tech idea
Cargill Inc. is backing an Irish startup that uses facial recognition software to help increase the productivity of dairy cows, the latest move by the largest closely held U.S. company to bolster its agricultural-technology efforts.
Cargill has taken a minority stake in Cainthus, which harnesses machine-learning and imaging techniques to identify cows and glean information on everything from their behavior to appetite, David Hunt, president and co-founder of Cainthus, said in a telephone interview Wednesday. Details of the investment weren't disclosed.
Hunt said Dublin-based Cainthus chose Cargill over venture capital firms because of the U.S. company's footprint in agriculture. Cargill is still owned by the same family that founded it 153 years ago and it's one of the world's largest crop traders and meat producers.
In the last few years, Minneapolis-based Cargill has reorganized parts of its business and built up a stronger presence in farm technology. It announced last month it's partnering with other companies to form a startup accelerator that will identify new food technologies. Cargill is seeking breakthroughs from other industries that can be applied to meet the big challenges in agriculture, such as population growth, labor shortages in rural areas, and consumers' concern over how their food is sourced and treated.
It's a question of "how do you do some of the same activities" but "in a more efficient manner," SriRaj Kantamneni, managing director of its digital insights business, said in an interview.