Early warning system for livestock diseases developed
Like humans, animals are threatened by deadly pandemics that spread quickly and, in the case of commercial livestock, decimate herds and flocks.
But an inexpensive early warning diagnostic tool developed by the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Professor Amit Mishra and start-up company 3DIMO holds hope for small- and medium-scale livestock farmers.
The Thola infrared imaging tool is being developed by local black economic empowerment start-up company 3DIMO. It is in the final stages of phase one of a pilot project involving several emerging farmers in Thaba’Nchu in the Free State.
A basic infrared camera (around one third of the size of a smartphone) can be mounted on a smartphone or, for larger areas and numbers, the images can be taken using bigger infrared cameras mounted on drones.
The infrared camera measures the heat signature of each point of the animal in the field of view. This provides useful information; for example, a higher temperature on a foreleg could signal inflammation or some other malaise.
“Different diseases have different signatures,” said Professor Mishra. “Not all diseases are detectable, but the temperature of the hoofs, and some other parts of the animals, for example, has been shown to be very useful in detecting common diseases like foot-and-mouth disease.”
This data is fed into the Thola platform, where the artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are designed to look for abnormalities. A network of monitoring devices can be built, integrating information across critical livestock areas. The archive of data is also searchable.
Tags are used to identify individual animals in a herd or flock. The team is also working on image-based identification using machine learning and AI.