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When cows send text messages

High Tech is in the field

Would you imagine cows texting their last calving? However, this is the odd idea Medria has developed. Stock health, feeding, fertility: farmers can now check those factors on their mobile phone.

"Baby's comin'!" 

Imagine a cow sending a text message to her farmer to warn him of the imminent coming of her calf... This is neither science fiction nor a "Wallace-and-Gromit-style" comedy: this is reality for 10% of the livestock in France. About 60,000 cows in France are already connected!

The idea sprouted out about ten years ago in the region of Rennes. Engineers in electronics and communication Jean-Pierre Lemonnier and Emmanuel Mounier decided to partner and create Medria, a company specialised in zootechnical supervision of cows.

The idea is simple: sensors located on the cow collar or introduced in their body are connected to a radio base. The radio analyses and transfers information on the cow behaviour and health to the farmer... by text message. On the Internet, the farmer also has access to a platform that offers a history of the data collected: it allows him/her to monitor the health condition of his/her livestock.

A livestock under control

Since 2004, Medria has developed its concept in four software. Two of them allow to supervise the reproduction of the livestock: the thermal sensor Vel'Phone follows up gestation and notifies the farmer when calving is imminent. And the HeatPhone collar detects the fertility period of a cow.

The two other major products of Medria help monitor the overall health of an animal: the FeedPhone collar detects eating disorders and the San'Phone, placed in the rumen of a cow, measures the temperature and helps detect any fever in real time.

Zootech: solution for the future?

As for the company, it's in perfect health. In 2014, Medria registered a 4 million Euros turnover, of which 30% were made abroad. The French start-up of 40 employees is the only one of its kind on the market of livestock health monitoring and thus benefits from a strategic position. While farmers experiment a more and more competitive context, the solutions offered by Medria are a way of easing the workload and increase their production capacity: collected data allow to anticipate the treatments in order to limit the losses due to diseases, or to efficiently plan insemination and gestation.

The success of zootech, the niche exploited by Medria, also raises many questions about the future of the French farming sector. Productivity gains can be seen as factors of the acceleration of industrialisation and concentration of livestock. Such trends had already been observed in French agriculture and raise questions in terms of sustainable development.

Photo credits: © Pierre Schwaller