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The University of Cape Town and a local tech startup, 3DIMO have begun working together to create new technological ways to detect disease in livestock as early as possible.
3DIMO is developing infrared technology detect diseases in livestock
Founded in August 2018, 3DIMO originally focused on creating sports building hardware and software that could detect injury early and monitor an athlete’s performance.
The CEO of 3DIMO, Nneile Nkholise, explained that as the company grew they saw an opportunity to become a large part of the solution to the challenges in the agriculture sector and decided to move their focus into this sector.
3DIMO eventually began developing the Thola infrared imaging tool which is currently in its final testing phase.
“We have worked with 317 farmers and 17000 cattle and the value of our solution has been providing farmers with the biometric identity of their animals which has a benefit that goes beyond identifying an animal that is not well but also helps with linking an animal to its owner,” explained Nkholise.
Nkholise added that is has been an advantage to have UCT Professor Amit Kumar Mishra as the tech lead for their team.
Professor Mishra was able to bring in a team of engineers who previously his students.
“Many of the students had worked on similar projects and it is enriching to see academics apply the knowledge they build throughout the years of research in real life to solve some of the most challenging problems in society and in turn making a huge impact on sustainability,” commented Nkholise.
Due to the engineers having previously worked on similar systems it only took two months to do a proof of concept and begin pilot tests for Thola.
How it works
The Thola infrared imaging tool has been designed with the purpose of helping small scale and medium scale farmers as they are at most risk of losing their income.
The inexpensive tool consists of a basic infrared that can be mounted on a phone or a drone to scan larger areas.
The camera measures the heat signature at different parts of the animal that is being scanned. This will help farmers detect any abnormalities or diseases in the animal.
Importance of early detection
The Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on how susceptible humans can be to life-threatening diseases. However, animals are just as vulnerable, if not more, to fatal pandemics.
The loss of livestock can end up costing farmers their livelihoods. The loss of livestock could have a ripple effect which could lead to loss of work for farm workers and a shortage in the meat supply.
In 2013, eight million pigs were killed in the US due to the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus. It is all the more reason for farmers to be able to detect the disease as early and as accurately as possible.
Long term goals for Thola
Nkholise stated that 3DIMO has international long term goals for the Thola infrared imaging tool.
The startup aims to build an international database of animal biometric identities that will be able to connect an animal to its owner by simply taking a picture.
This will be able to combat livestock theft in some countries in Africa and provide an opportunity to partner with insurance companies.
Featured image: Kat Jayne via Pexels