Nikon has taken its imaging and AI prowess in a unexpected direction with a new system that can warn farmers when a cow is about to give birth, Kyodo News has reported. It's designed to reduce the need to constantly check large numbers of pregnant cows during busy birthing seasons, helping farmers improve efficiency.
The system, which costs 900,000 yen per year ($6,200) for a farm with around 100 cows, consists of a security-style camera married to an AI system. It uses a dedicated smartphone application that sounds an alert when a calf is due, allowing farmers to spring into action if required.
Nikon started training the AI in the fall of 2021, then running proof-of-concept tests on four farms in southwestern Japan in February 2023. The system picks up on signs exhibited by pregnant cows about five hours ahead of labor, like increased movement and the beginning of the release of the calf's amniotic sac. "We want to be able to also detect when a female cow is in heat and other behavioral patterns," said Nikon's Kazuhiro Hirano.
The system apparently does the job well, according a livestock owner who participated in the tests last year. "We deliver about 60 calves per year and had to check the mothers every few hours from around a month before they are due. This system has been a great help," said Keita Higuchi.
Nikon is best known for its consumer cameras, but it also manufactures microscopes, X-Ray systems, semiconductor systems, robot vision, virtual production studios and more. The company uses AI tech to aid microscope imaging, but has also recently fought against misuse of fake AI images via new electronic watermarking technology.