Fitbit for Cows! Agtech that can save society billions

Sustainability problem- High costs to society due to disease outbreak on livestock farms

The risk of disease outbreak in meat and dairy industry can have severe downstream impacts that are broadly classified as-

Direct costs

  • Animal and human worker deaths due to illness
  • Reduced fertility and herd changes

Indirect costs

  • Mitigation costs- including cost of drugs, vaccines and surveillance
  • Human health impacts
  • Lost revenue to do lower productivity

Though the efficacy of disease management in the livestock industry has progressively improved, problems persist with the emergence of newer diseases, exacerbated by a variety of factors including climate change, migration and the overall growth of scale of the livestock industry. For example the cost of Salmonella in the EU and member states was estimated at €132,612,837 in 2008. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control estimated that the total cost to society due to Salmonella outbreaks in 2011 was over $2 Billion (The Cost of Animal Disease- Oxford Analytica).

Sustainability technology- SmartMoo, a wearable for Cows

In a world where data analytics, real-time sensing and IoT are finding increasing application in sustainability and smart cities, the livestock industry can certainly benefit from a similar intervention. The proposed technology is essentially a “Fitbit for Cows”, pioneered by an Indian Agtech firm called StellApps.

The product, called SmartMoo, is a router/IoT inspector that collects data from sensors placed all along the supply chain, right from animal wearables to the milking and cooling systems. The data is processed and analysed and sent to various stakeholders involved, including farmers. Its low hardware costs ensure that it is an affordable solution for farmers in the developing world, who are typically at the bottom of the pyramid.

The wearable can be used to monitor the herd’s vitals, including temperature, activity and behaviour with the aim to alert the concerned stakeholder in real-time in case of abnormalities. By timely response to signals, farmers can ensure a healthy herd and disease-free industry, saving both themselves and society at large tremendous amounts of mitigation costs.

Key stakeholders and their role in implementation

The key stakeholders in deploying and scaling this technology are the following-

  • Governments- to create incentive schemes for farmers and livestock farm owners to invest in and adopt these technologies as well as create a network of emergency response veterinarians
  • Medical community- Veterinarians to link to and monitor data from these sensors at an aggregate level to inform the authorities on “hotspots” for disease activity as well as take necessary precautions
  • Farmers and livestock owners- to be trained on installing, using and interpreting information from sensors. It would also be helpful for the medical community to disseminate “immediate care” knowledge to the livestock owners, so that signals caught by the network of sensors can be addressed immediately while professional help is organized and dispatched



By Aksheya Chandar (ac4154)

Image source-

New technology removes air pollutants, may reduce energy use in animal agricultural facilities

Sustainability Problem:

The increase in pollution has increased the need to produce food to sustain this growth. Growing livestock produces high levels of ammonia concentration in the barns. This has a negative impact on the quality of the air in the vicinity of the farm.


  1. Ammonia polluted air enters the biofilter.
  2. There is also a heat exchanger that captures some of the heat and transfers it back into the barn along with fresh air.
  3. The prototype has been proven successful in a farm with 5,000 chickens.


  • Farmers
  • People living around farm land

Steps for deployment:

  • Start by deploying technology is farms with more than 5,000 chickens
  • Approach national brands, because they have resources to implement technology


Can Cultured Meat Save the World?

Sustainability Problem

  • Animal husbandry is responsible for more than 14% of greenhouse gas emissions; 65% of those emissions come from raising cattle for beef and dairy.
  • Producing one kilogram of beef uses 15,000 liters of water and adds 300 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
  • Livestock and livestock feed occupies up to 30% of the earth’s ice-free land; 1-2 acres of rainforest are clear-cut every second to raise animals; the majority of crops raised are used to feed livestock, not people.
  • 335 million tons of animal waste is generated annually in the US alone. Animal waste is one of the main contributors to water pollution and of dead-zones in rivers and oceans.
  • The world’s population is projected to grow to 9.5 billion by 2060; the global diet has shifted to include more animal protein.

Description of Synthetic or Cultured Meat

  • Although fake meat has been around for decades, it has never successfully entered the market because many products are unpalatable and expensive. The complexity of meat, including the flavor and texture, is difficult to replicate.
  • An emerging method is to grow “animal free” meat. The process begins with the slaughter of an adult cow to extract stem cells, which is use to culture the muscle tissue, and a cow fetus to obtain a serum used to grow the tissue. The DNA from these two animals will be used to grow enough synthetic meat to replace herds of slaughtered cows.
  • Stem cells are fed into a broth consisting of around 100 synthetic nutrients combined with a serum extracted from the cow fetus. As the cells split over the course of a week they form sheets a few millimeters thick. The end result is mixed with other organic compounds, including beet juice, to simulate the texture of beef.
  • Science has not been able to recreate anything resembling steak or chicken, however a beef broth has been produced; it could help feed the world’s growing appetite for animal protein.


  • Animal farmers
  • Slaughterhouses
  • Meat replicators
  • Meat eaters
  • The environment


  • Following additional investments into R&D, “animal free” meat can be produced anywhere using significantly less resources that traditional animal husbandry.
  • The emerging industry’s goal is to create a 25,000 liter bioreactor, large enough to provide meat for up to 10,000 people per year.
  • There are two significant obstacles: the current process is prohibitively expensive and large-scale adoption of replicated meat will take a shift in culture/tastes.


Impossible Foods: Plant-based burgers with taste and texture of the real thing

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 2.52.07 PM

Sustainability Problem:

Animal agriculture contributes to nearly ⅕ of all GHG emissions worldwide and beef production is considered the worst offender when it comes to its environmental impact. A 2014 study found that compared to pork or chicken, beef production requires 28x more land use, 11x more water use and produces 5x more GHG emissions. Cutting back or eliminating beef consumption would have a positive environmental impact. However, many people enjoy the taste of beef and aren’t interested in pursuing a completely meat-free or plant-based lifestyle. The current plant-based meat substitutes in the marketplace, do not replace the void of a “real” burger when it comes to taste and texture.


Impossible Foods aimed to create plant-based meat and dairy products that have the taste and texture of real animal-based products that are healthier for the consumer and are less harmful to the planet using less energy, water and other resources compared to animal products. Over three years of research into what makes the process of cooking and eating meat so unique led to the discovery of the molecule heme which gives meat its distinct taste and smell. This molecule is also found in plants and therefore Impossible Foods set out to develop the right combination of plant-based ingredients on a molecular level to mimic the taste and texture of a real beef burger. Operated as a tech firm and not a typical food company, Impossible Foods is based in Redwood City, CA was founded by Stanford biochemist Pat Brown whose premise is that food production is reliant on technology. Impossible Foods has raised $182 million and received a $300 million buyout offer from Google, which they passed on.

Technology Stakeholders:

  • Chefs, restaurateurs, food retailers
  • Consumers of beef burgers
  • Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Farmers
  • Investors

Technology Implementation:

Impossible Foods plans to officially launch their first product the Impossible Burger in July 2016 in select restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and NYC. They are currently partnering with select chefs to gain awareness and interest in the food space and have held tastings at tech conferences such as Code Conference. Future expansion plans include plant-based dairy products. To better address the sustainability problem of beef consumption, Impossible Foods should scale production to have products in retail markets with a wider U.S. or even worldwide distribution.

Update August 10, 2016: The Impossible Burger is now available in NYC at Momofuku Nishi.

I tried it today and was impressed. As a former burger-lover who went plant-based earlier this year, it did fill a void. It did taste like a beef burger and I would probably try it again.