New AI device detects pig respiratory diseases sooner

The sound data captured by the device is translated into a respiratory health score (Photo: Boehringer Ingelheim)
The sound data captured by the device is translated into a respiratory health score (Photo: Boehringer Ingelheim)

A new AI device which continually learns has been developed to detect respiratory diseases in pigs up to five days sooner than conventional methods.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the tool 'SoundTalks' aims to help improve the health of pigs.

Boehringer Ingelheim, a provider of health solutions in predicting and preventing disease outbreaks in swine, has developed the device.

It uses AI algorithms to ‘listen’ to the frequency and intensity of coughs in pigs, alerting the producer to the onset of potential problems.

The device has already been shown to detect respiratory disease in pigs up to five days sooner than conventional methods, according to Boehringer Ingelheim.

Each SoundTalks covers up to a 10-metre radius and has a microphone that ‘listens’ to the pigs, and humidity and temperature sensors.

The monitors transmit the pig noises to 'the Gateway', which links to the cloud where sounds are analysed.

Listening and monitoring devices are not new, but what makes SoundTalks unique is the data that were used to build the algorithms it uses to compare and detect coughs, and that the system is continually ‘learning’.

The sound data is translated into a respiratory health score, which is inversely related to the risk of morbidity and mortality, and visualised in an online dashboard and mobile app.

The monitors themselves also signal the respiratory health status of the pigs and alert anomalies with a traffic-light system, helping farmers identify and focus attention on the right groups of pigs sooner.

Findlay MacBean, head of livestock at Boehringer Ingelheim, said: “Respiratory diseases can be detrimental not only to the health and wellbeing of livestock but a farmer’s bottom line.

"Against the backdrop of the wider pressures British pig farmers face today including labour shortages and the rising costs of production, maintaining herd health is becoming more challenging, and crucially, more important.

"Through tools like SoundTalks, Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to creating innovative solutions that enable farmers to predict, prevent and treat animal health conditions, helping them to achieve more.”

Paul Thompson, a vet at Garth Pig Practice, said the tool would help improve pig wellbeing and reduce the time commitments and costs for the farmer.

“The earlier we can detect the onset of disease the quicker we can intervene," Mr Thompson said.

"By taking action earlier we can aim to reduce morbidity and mortality, and potentially lessen treatments including antibiotic use.

"This innovation has the potential to provide robust data as to when respiratory disease starts, allowing us to refine our prevention plans and improve the overall health of the pigs.”