Saving swine in Solon with the “SmartGuard”
Company of ten employees handles an invention that saves piglets... and money
SOLON, Iowa (KCRG) – At the corner of Main and Cedar in Solon is an unassuming building, leading to the eastern edge of town.
This building saves piglets.
Not inside the offices of SwineTech itself but through the brainpower and execution of ten employees.
Any pig farmer understands the impact of losing piglets. Mortality about these baby pigs is about 16-20%, according to the website FreeFarrowing.org. The mother (the sow) crushing a piglet is probably more common than people outside of agriculture understand.
It happens constantly.
That’s where SwineTech comes in. “Waste less time & save more pigs” is the line on the company webpage.
“The crushing (of piglets) is 40% of (these) mortalities),” said Ben White, the vice president of engineering at SwineTech. “It’s a billion-dollar problem.” White said the company’s two founders came up with the idea in 2015. Prototypes followed two years later and, by 2018, the version that SwineTech keeps in its Solon offices for demonstration was about here.
“It’s an automated system where you set it and forget it,” said White, holding the SmartGuard. “It protects the pigs all day long. Otherwise you would have to hire a worker and have them there all day. That’s not feasible. We’re there, protecting them and saving them.”
What SwineTech does is sends, according to White, a deep-muscle stimulation that startles the sow. “She will, then, stand up and we save that piglet.”
White said the technology relies on the squeals of the piglets to engage the system and send the stimulation. But separating the sounds coming in also requires some deciphering.
“We had to make sure we were able to catch the squeals and not just the piglets fighting,” said White.
SwineTech had operated from Cedar Rapids before the recent move to Solon.
“We wanted to get somewhere rural, somewhere we could expand,” said White. “Great location with Iowa City and Cedar Rapids and we hit all of those job markets.”
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