The National Inventors Hall of Fame announced last week that SwineTech, a University of Iowa team, won first place in the undergraduate category in the 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition. SwineTech's SmartGuard technology saves baby pigs from being crushed by their mothers.
Team members Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinosa were awarded $10,000 for their invention, SmartGuard, which prevents piglet crushing deaths by monitoring the pitch, loudness and duration of squeals. The monitoring system determines whether a piglet is in distress or just squealing as piglets normally do. When a piglet is in distress, the device sends a vibration to a wearable patch on the sow, prompting her to stand up and free her piglet.
Annual contest for college students, advisers
The team’s adviser is Thomas Hornbeck. This is an annual contest for college and university students and their faculty advisers.
The SwineTech team was also the winner of the Arrow Innovation Prize, chosen by a panel of judges from Arrow Electronics. This exclusive prize advanced the team to the final round of judging — all expenses paid — at the competition, and it included a private networking opportunity with a group of innovators from Arrow Electronics — a Fortune 118 global technology-solutions provider.
Finalist teams (six undergraduate and six graduate teams) brought a total of 29 students from 12 colleges and universities from across the U.S. to the final round of competition. It was held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. The teams presented their inventions to an esteemed panel of final-round judges composed of the most influential inventors and innovation experts in the nation — National Inventors Hall of Fame members and USPTO experts.
Cultivating new generation of innovation
“For students interested in STEM disciplines, innovation and entrepreneurship, a strong understanding of the intellectual property system is critical for success,” says Joseph Matal, an official with the undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “We are proud to host this Collegiate Inventors Competition, where the research and innovations of our greatest collegiate inventors are presented to the world.”
The contest provides a glimpse into the future of American innovation and emerging technological trends from the nation’s brightest young inventors, he notes. Established in 1990, the Collegiate Inventors Competition is a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Introduced in 1990, the competition has awarded more than $1 million to students for their innovative work and scientific achievement through the help of sponsors. For more information, visit invent.org/challenge.
Saving piglets, improving agriculture
SwineTech is an Oskaloosa-based ag technology startup. Roorda and Espinoza founded SwineTech in spring 2015 when they were students at the University of Iowa. “This technology successfully reduces mortalities in farrowing facilities,” says Roorda, who is the firm’s CEO. “There is a definite need for this device. As many as 6 million newborn piglets are accidentally crushed every year, according to the National Pork Board.” SwineTech’s devices also provide biometric tracking, similar to “Fit bit” for pigs, to aid farmers in providing the best animal care possible.
SwineTech also advanced to the final four of American Farm Bureau’s 2018 Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The final four teams, chosen from 471 applicants, were each awarded $15,000 and will compete for the AFBF Entrepreneur of the Year Award during live competition at AFBF’s annual convention Jan. 7 in Nashville.
Another national entrepreneur competition
“Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa program has been instrumental to our success,” says Roorda. “They worked with us since we took part in the Iowa Start-up Accelerator at the very beginning of SwineTech, providing critical feedback of our business model in the early days, as well as continued support for our ideas over the years, helping us transition an idea from the whiteboard to the boardroom.”
He adds, “As we move toward a commercial launch and beyond, we remain thankful for all the help Renew Rural Iowa has provided along the way.” For more information on this program, go to renewruraliowa.com.