Tech aid will keep eye on horses’ health

AN innovation driven Irish company which has already introduced cows to cloud computing is now set to transform the health monitoring of racehorses with world-class technology.

Alanya, based at the Rubicon Centre in the Cork Institute of Technology Campus at Bishopstown, has researched and developed a hand-held device that will instantly tell trainers if there is a problem with any of their horses.

The nightmare for any stable is to have a horse return from the morning exercise gallops with the work rider or jockey reporting that something was not right with the animal.

Traditionally, blood tests would be taken and sent for laboratory analyses to determine if the horse had developed an illness.

However, it might take a week to 10 days to come back, leaving the connections with the horse in a state of anxiety. That concern becomes even greater if the horse is entered in an important upcoming race.

Now, the hand-held device on which trials have being conducted at an American stud farm in Kentucky will provide real-time results.

With the use of this world-class advanced technology, a trainer can instantly find out why a horse had been sluggish on the gallops or had lost form.

The company, which has worldwide exclusivity on the technology, hopes to have it on the market by the end of next year.

Alanya founder and chief executive Donald Cronin said the readings from the device will help trainers to quickly determine what is wrong with the racehorse.

The analysis will help handlers to decide whether the animal should be raced or held back for a while.

“It will be a great aid to racehorse trainers and has huge potential,” he said.

Alanya’s move into equine health monitoring follows a successful breakthrough by the company in the global bovine sector.

It has introduced cows to cloud computing through a ground-breaking health monitoring system that will help farmers, vets, and herd managers.

Embedded sensors on a neck collar worn by the cows will monitor their temperature and gestures and send information on their health status through a small base station to the internet for analysis.

The data is then made available to the farmer through an application which can be downloaded from the Apple Store, Google Play, and Windows Phone Store and is suitable to run on smart phones and tablets.

Data is provided on the health of each individual in a herd, and defined actions to resolve conditions that require attention are outlined. Alerts are categorised by the condition detected — estrus, illness, lameness, and heat stress.

Mr Cronin said the system incorporates the know-how of experts vital to the success of a modern farming operation. These include farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists, and artificial insemination specialists.

Alanya chief operations officer Padraig Lynch said a farmer on holiday in Spain can log on to the app on his mobile phone and see how his cows are performing and if they are being treated properly.

“The application increases the milk production on farms and increases the bottom line,” said Mr Lynch. “It improves the efficiency of farm breeding programmes and reduces animal health care costs.

“It is the eyes and the ears of herd monitoring and gives farmers the time to concentrate on the grassland activities that are needed to get cows profitable.”

Donald Cronin said the global dairy industry is one of the largest and fastest growing food sectors across the developed world and emerging markets.

“The continuing surge in demand is placing significant pressure on dairy farms to increase productivity,” he said. “To deliver increased performance, dairy farms are increasingly looking to technology solutions to help them address the significant challenges of falling reproduction rates and increased animal health issues.

“The global market for integrated health monitoring and estrus detection is estimated at €1.7bn in the dairy sector alone.”

Mr Cronin, from Blackrock in Cork, worked with his father, Denis, in his Agway Milling company, and later on dairy farms in France. He studied agricultural science at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, where his final year project was animal health monitoring.

Back in Ireland, he worked with Keenan Systems, under the company’s graduate recruitment scheme, gaining experience in nutrition and sales before coming back to join his father’s business.

Three years after starting to develop his idea, Mr Cronin met his cousin, Nader Fares, at a family wedding in Kentucky. Mr Fares invested in the company and Alanya was founded in 2010.

Alanya is now in the process of closing distribution deals for both its equine and bovine health monitoring systems with three different parties for the US, South Africa, and South America and will shortly start to focus on China and Australia.

The company, which will install the first of its remote dairy herd monitoring systems in Ireland next week, employs eight full-time and two part-time people. It hopes to have 14 full-time employees in 2014.

Alanya is one of 57 knowledge-based start-up firms based at the Cork Rubicon Incubation Centre, which is jointly financed by CIT and Enterprise Ireland.


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