Swineguard designed to protect newborn pigs

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Swineguard is a startup business founded by a pair of University of Iowa students, Matt Rooda and Abraham Espinosa. The business is focused on just one product, a device designed to reduce operating costs for small pig farmers by eliminating most piglet deaths.

According to Rooda, 13 million piglets died in the United States last year shortly after birth. The pork industry estimates 60 to 89 percent of those deaths happened because the newborn piglets were crushed by their mothers. Those deaths represent a revenue loss of $689 million to pork producers per year.

Typically pregnant sows are moved into farrowing pens a few days before they are due to give birth. In a video prepared for the Iowa Startup Accelerator, Rooda says sows usually give birth to 13 piglets in a litter, and two or three piglets will die when the sow lays on top of them.

Rooda was working at Schneider Pork Farms in Waterloo, Iowa, when he saw these losses firsthand. He remembers his frustration when he came to work one day and found a sow had killed nine of the piglets in her litter. Back in school at the University of Iowa, he went to work to devise an affordable system for small farmers to use to monitor their farrowing pens. The result is Sound-Off, a product set for beta testing beginning in Januay.

Sound-Off incorporates software that “listens” to pig squeals. Piglets that are crushed beneath a sow will emit extremely high-pitched squeals, punctuated by deep breaths, for 30 to 60 seconds before they succumb. If the device detects this pattern, it will deliver an electrical impulse through a belt on the sow, similar to the impulse delivered by a shock collar on a dog. The shock will cause the sow to stand up so the piglet can go free.

Rooda has assembled a team that includes Espinoza as COO of his fledgling company, Mike Brown as CFO, and John Rourke as CTO. He founded Swineguard in May, and attended Venture School at the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center during the summer. A few days after finishing Venture School, the team started the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort, an intensive 90-day program.

Swineguard plans to begin production in early 2016. Sound-Off is designed to sell at $1,000 per unit. Each unit monitors two pens at the same time. Rooda estimates the device can save a farmer $115,000 in a year.  The company will begin selling Sound-Off in Iowa, the leading pork producing state, through direct sales, using social media, fairs and expos as primary marketing tools.

Source: Silicon Prairie News

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Jeannie Oliver

Jeannie Oliver is a writer and PR practitioner with a long string of awards behind her name. With a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Jeannie has worked as a high school journalism teacher, an editor for the Appaloosa Journal, and a media spokesperson for...