Any start-up company with a new idea around agricultural technology, must solve a problem for farmers and add value on their farms, a leading NI entrepreneur has said.

Addressing a European Agricultural Research Initiative (Euragri) event organised by AFBI, Teagasc and Scotland’s Rural College, Terry Canning, the CEO of Cattle Eye, outlined his vision to revolutionise how farm livestock are monitored in housed systems.

Cattle Eye currently uses a standard security camera to assess the body condition score (BCS) and locomotion of cows in an exit race from the parlour.

When it comes to lameness, cows are given a score between 0 and 100, with an animal over 50 typically requiring treatment.

“We create value by helping farmers reduce their lameness. How do we do that? – We produce a list,” said Canning.

His product came to market in 2021 and is currently monitoring about 100,000 cows worldwide. Among clients is the dairy unit at CAFRE, Greenmount, with farms also in Britain, including a core group who supply milk in contracts to Tesco and M&S.

However, it is the US where Canning sees a major opportunity, with a lot of herds of 2,000+ cows and the availability of labour an issue on many farms. To help grow sales in the US, Cattle Eye has partnered with various companies, including foot bath supplier, Hoofstrong.


Future development of the Cattle Eye technology could involve monitoring lying and eating behaviour or measuring the likes of weight or rumen fill. The key is to listen to what customers want, said Canning.

When Cattle Eye was set up in 2019, one of the first issues considered was heat technology, however, it is a pretty crowded space.

“We learned quite quickly the market wasn’t going to be there for that, so we just killed it. The secret to failing is failing fast. And every time you fail, keep going,” said Canning.

In late 2022, Canning signed a distribution deal for the Cattle Eye lameness product with global dairy technology company GEA. “They liked us so much that they bought the company two months ago. We are very excited about the future,” he added.

Farm Wizard

Before he started Cattle Eye, Canning came to prominence in 2004 when he founded Farm Wizard, which produced a livestock management system for farmers.

Having developed the business, it was sold in 2015 to investment company Wheatsheaf and now belongs to Australia based AgriWebb.

Recounting his experiences, Canning said he made mistakes along the way, including around agreements with investors. His advice to start-up companies is to get good legal advice and always retain a sharp focus for the business.

“Most start-ups die, not from hunger, but from indigestion – they try to do too much,” he said.

GasHound turns into CropHound

Also speaking at the Euragri event was Mark Elliott, the founder of NI based company, CropHound.

Having been involved with Farm Wizard since 2005, Elliott left in 2020 to form the new business, which uses in-field sensors and cameras to give farmers an insight into the potential yield, drought, disease, pest and weed status of their crops.

At present, the technology is mainly being used in potato and carrot crops, although trials are also on-going in cereals, multi-species swards and grass.

However, Elliott’s original idea was GasHound, a slurry gas sensor that detected unsafe levels of hydrogen sulphide when mixing slurry tanks.

“I was convinced every farmer would want, require and have no issue in paying for a safety device for slurry gas,” said Elliott. Cost was around £400 per unit plus a yearly fee, but in the end, because farmers only mix tanks two or three times per year, there was little actual demand.

“Go and do your market research – you might think you have the smartest thing,” he advised.