AI shakes up monitoring of poultry

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Imtiaz Shams is the first to admit he doesn’t “speak chicken”.

However as CEO of UK-based ag tech company FLOX, Shams and his team have spent a great deal of time learning from poultry farmers and the supply chain, many of whom are benefitting from his innovative creation.

FLOX works to improve the health, welfare, and performance of chickens in farms across Europe and North America.

The company’s artificial intelligence platform is called FLOX 360 and helps farmers monitor their chickens in every house on the farm with off-the-shelf cameras and sensors.

The data used by enterprise-grade AI algorithms to weigh birds and figure out how they’re moving, is then alerted to relevant parties through dashboards.

This initiative caught the eye of Regional Angels‘ investor members, who recognised FLOX as a worthy ag-tech startup.

“I think we have a few things going for us,” Shams said.

“Firstly I think our team gels very well together [and] secondly I think it’s clear we care about the problem – the world is going to make at a minimum 1.8 trillion chickens in the next two decades and we want to play a part in making that better.”

Shams describes his background as slightly unorthodox. “I’m a founder of a venture builder with some great partners, which has 13 companies in its portfolio and an attached fund,” he said.

“Working with some poultry farming experts, we came up with the technology approach behind FLOX – eventually I decided I really wanted to see if I could build something big and meaningful, and FLOX gave me that.”

The company was also a winner at the Pitch to Paddock competition in Tamworth last year, (RAIN ran in partnership with Farmers2Founders), where Shams presented FLOX to an audience of potential investors and industry stakeholders.

“It was fantastic, the judges clearly understood agriculture, but also how hard it is to scale deep technologies like computer vision (AI) in agricultural and in general,” Shams said.

“I also absolutely loved meeting the Aussie companies. There was a huge range of problems they were solving and it really does seem that part of Australia has something magical in terms of a mix of ag knowledge and ‘startup’ culture.”

According to Shams, the next step for FLOX is alerting farmers and the wider supply chain to when things are going well, or if a shed “needs more loving”.

“This is very tricky to get right,” he said, “false positives can mean farmers don’t pay attention to your product. So we’re aiming for good, reliable alerts versus just alerting when our system think something weird is happening.”

As for FLOX being able to evolve in the future, Shams thinks absolutely, listing eggs, turkeys and the wider livestock sector.

“We’re already in a few egg barns and we’re working with some of the largest turkey producers in Europe to see how similar the value proposition is, or if we need to work it a little.”

Source: Canberra Times