Iowan who invented shock collar for pigs named 'Entrepreneur of the Year'


Kevin Hardy, Des Moines Register (IA)

Jan. 10, 2018


An Iowan committed to saving newborn piglets was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the the American Farm Bureau Federation.


Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinoza won the farm bureau's Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge for their startup SwineTech Inc., which aims to save piglets from being crushed by sows in pork farms.


Crushing is a recurring challenge for pork producers, an oddity of the domesticated species that largely has baffled researchers. Rooda's company has designed a device that listens for the distressed squeals of piglets in danger of getting squished. Then, it delivers a mild shock to get Mom moving.


SwineTech took home $30,000 in prize money, including an additional $15,000 from sponsor John Deere at the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. Now in its fourth year, the challenge provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations developed in rural regions of the U.S. The farm bureau says it is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.


It's a pleasure to recognize these outstanding rural businesses and entrepreneurs, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. Its clear that the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in rural America.


In recent months, Rooda says his company has worked on tweaking and redesigning the technology. Rather than a belt, it's now a patch applied to a pig's skin. And rather than shocking a sow immediately, it starts with a vibration. If that doesn't move the sow, it delivers a shock.


And the strength of the shock has decreased, he said. While it used to be comparable to a dog's shock collar, the patch now delivers a buzz about two-fifths of that strength.


Cedar Rapids-based SwineTech has raised about $1.3 million from investors and...


more, including video