Early detection of diseases in dairy cows
Physicists Wim Ubachs and Edcel Salumbides received the grant for their research project ‘BREATHSENS: Breath analysis sensor for disease detection in the dairy industry’. Dairy products account for some 5% of the global food intake, an important dietary component in the global challenge of feeding the increasing human population that is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050. To attain peak productivity and efficiency, the health and well-being of each dairy cow is of paramount importance.
The aim of this ERC PoC project of Salumbides is to develop a non-invasive and automated breath sensor, so that illness in individual cows can be detected well before clinical symptoms manifest. The technology is derived from the extremely sensitive and ultra-high spectral resolution cavity-enhanced spectroscopic methods developed in fundamental investigations on molecular hydrogen, which was funded by Ubachs’ ERC Advanced Grant (2015).
The first target for BREATHSENS will be ketosis, which is a common metabolic deficiency that leads to estimated losses of more than €1.9 billion per year for the EU dairy farming industry. The continuous monitoring and early illness detection would enable timely and tailored feed adjustments by farmers to prevent or alleviate disease progression. This novel and unique method will not only reduce economic costs and minimize environmental emissions, but will help ensure a better quality of life for the farm animals.