Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2022

Dairy farmers have a regular problem when it comes to testing their cows’ health and the quality of their milk. They have to ship milk samples to labs for each cow and wait on the results. 

Two MIT alumni aim to help with their new device which gives the same results in 10 minutes. 

Testing milk and ensuring healthy cows

The device comes from the startup Labby, and it does more than just assess the quality of each cow’s milk. It can help instantly detect diseases that might spread to the rest of the herd. It could also create a workable body of data about cows and their individual health. This could allow veterinarians and researchers to establish health guidelines and practices for the industry. This could ensure more humane treatment of dairy cows and safer dairy products. 

“Everyone understands the power of data to improve health,” says Labby CEO Julia Somerdin, cofounder of the company with former MIT Media Lab postdoc Anshuman Das. “It’s just like how home care and [data collection devices] for humans have transformed health care.”

Somerdin worked in systems engineering and technical product development for 15 years before deciding to pursue her master’s at MIT. She and Das wanted to find an area where their technology and research could make a difference and decided on the unexpected field of dairy farming. 

The lengthy and expensive nature of examining cow health and milk quality can lead to cows developing mastitis, which can hurt the cows and their milk quality. This can also spread to the rest of the herd. 

Labby’s scanner device uses mobile spectroscopy to collect an array of information like the milk’s composition of fat, protein, and somatic cell count (SCC). SCC levels can indicate the risk of mastitis and give farmers and vets time to treat the cow. 

Labby is partnering with farms in Pennsylvania this spring to test the device and improve its design. 

Data for the safety of milk for consumers is important, and Labby believes this is directly tied to the health and happiness of the cows it comes from. 

“We believe happy cows get you better milk, and better milk leads to happy customers,” Somerdin says. “There’s a harmony between the animal and the human. It’s all connected.”

Source Study: MIT NewsHelping dairy farmers raise healthy cows | MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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