A pig farmer turned PhD has pioneered a 3D imaging tool in Edmonton that could optimize cattle production and profits..Dr. Jack Behan was born in the UK to Irish parents and admits he used university studies to escape working on the family pig farm. After earning a PhD at London’s Royal Veterinary College, he took an interest in using technology to improve outcomes in livestock operations. .In recent years, he became CEO of Edmonton-based Alpha Phenomics..In 2021, the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) gave him a $350,000 grant to cover a quarter of the costs to develop his $1.3 million project entitled Utilisation of 3-D Real-Time Multispectral Cameras to Identify the Liveweight, Optimal Slaughter Weight and Carcass Weight in Pre-Slaughter Cattle. .“I've spent my entire career researching and developing ways to innovate animal-based agriculture to the benefit of individual farmers and the sector as a whole,” Behan explained in a CAAIN press release..“Everything starts and finishes with return on investment, so if you can find ways to improve productivity while reducing costs, you can make a tangible difference to the lives of individuals whose hard work puts food on our tables. I speak from personal experience.”.In 2018, Behan consulted for a large pork farming operation in China. His work bolstered productivity, profitability, and animal welfare through a diverse suite of the latest agricultural technologies..This experience taught Behan the growing role genomics were going to take in the livestock sector. Behan also realized that ag tech could attract more people to agriculture, a field that has waned in its attractiveness to youth, leading to labour shortages..Afterwards, Behan was approached by University of Alberta friend and colleague Dr. Graham Plastow to come to Canada to take advantage of funding available to conduct promising cattle genomics research. This led to the founding of Alpha Phenomics which aims to pool and distil the efforts of geneticists, genomics specialists, engineers capable of creating imaging from captured data, biostatisticians, and veterinarians. .The intelligent automated collection and use of such data demonstrates what is produced and what is thrown away. This allows players along the supply chain to reduce waste, cost and carbon emissions, thereby improving the competitiveness and sustainability of Canada's beef producers. .CAAIN expects the technology’s implementation will improve social licence and profitability. A 1% increase in beef feed efficiency at the pasture level would return $11 million to the Canadian sector. .Behan estimates the value of calves and AAA beef cuts could be improved by 2% while calf deaths could drop by 5%. He said the grant was very helpful..“In addition to raising our profile and connecting us to a terrific cross-Canada network, the support has allowed us the reach the pre-commercialization stage with a viable product and IP whose collective value exceeds $20 million.".“That’s a three-year turnaround that almost defies belief when you consider that the pandemic almost wiped us out. The hardware, firmware, and software you helped us develop will become a cost-effective, cutting-edge tool that will provide cattle ranchers with significant ROI at a time when the industry needs it the most.”.The grant was given in 2021, and is one of seven recipients CAAIN is currently highlighting. CAAIN is a not-for-profit company launched in July 2019 with funding of $49.5-million from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and assistance from Alberta Innovates in the form of significant in-kind contributions..CAAIN has nurtured more than 100 collaborations and has invested $30M in 24 projects with a combined total value exceeding $90M. CAAIN program manager Garson Law said the imaging project was well-aligned with their goals..“This initiative is all about increasing efficiency and, therefore, producer profitability, which is a key contributor to food security, an issue of growing global concern.”.The Canadian Cattle Association estimates Canada's beef sector contributes $22 billion to GDP, directly or indirectly generating approximately 347,000 jobs, each of which yields another 3.9 jobs elsewhere in the economy.