Pork producers have always been frustrated by losing pigs due to crushing. It was worse when sows farrowed outside, since baby pigs would snuggle close to their moms to stay warm and ultimately be crushed. This dilemma was one of the primary reasons for farrowing crates – since sows couldn’t turn around, pigs were less likely to get crushed. The addition of “fingers” on the crate’s sides contributed to fewer pigs being crushed, but it remains a problem.
Matthew Rooda grew up in rural Iowa, and, according to an article in The Des Moines Register, his father manages several commercial sow farms. “But Rooda himself had little hands-on experience until he took a job at a farrowing operation while he attended Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo,” the article said.
It disturbed him when he saw pigs being crushed, and he thought there had to be a better way. Now a senior at the University of Iowa, Rooda is well on his way bringing an innovative new product to market.
“The best way to describe Rooda’s invention might be a cross between a shock collar for dogs and a fitness tracker for people,” said the article. “Its purpose is to listen for the distressed squeals of piglets in danger of getting squished and send a mild shock to Mom to get her to move.”
The product began as a belt around the sow’s middle but has been adapted to a disposable patch, which will likely make it more cost-effective and efficient for producers to use.
Rooda has been recognized for his invention, which he plans to introduce at the 2018 World Pork Expo. According to the article, his company, SwineTach, took the national title at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards in Kansas City, and will represent the U.S. at the global competition in Frankfurt, Germany.
Look for more on SwineTech and this “wearable technology” for pigs in future issues of PORK Network.