MISM Students Tag the Beef Business
Three BYU students are beefing up the face of agriculture with a new venture that could go from MISM capstone course to cash cow.
Erik Lamb, Austen Smack, and Andres De Hoyos are designing a data-connected ear tag to track the movement of cattle. This new device, called CattleGuard, will improve herd management for ranchers, allowing them to see where all of their livestock is at any given moment. The solar-powered, GPS-based ear tag sends a notification to the owner when an animal is beyond a certain perimeter. This helps prevent theft as well as any cattle-related car accidents or fatalities.
After serving an LDS mission amongst ranchers in St. Louis, Smack discovered how big of a challenge herd management can be. Speaking to the ranchers about their difficulties helped Smack come up with the idea for CattleGuard.
“Part of the MISM capstone is finding solutions to real-life problems using skills we’ve learned in the information systems program,” Smack says. “So it was a good parallel of solving a problem we knew about with something we’ve learned.”
In lieu of a master’s thesis, MISM students complete a capstone course over two semesters. They can choose to undertake any project that coalesces the knowledge and skills they’ve gained from the program and helps launch them into their careers.
“It should be something that at the water cooler at their future job, they will tell their coworkers about what they did, and they will think, ‘Wow, that’s cool,’” says information systems professor Tom Meservy.
The CattleGuard team is developing the software and hardware behind the ear tag with the help of faculty advisor James Gaskin along with Nano engineer and BYU alum Steven Noyce. The team will continue developing the device this semester and plans to run a beta test in March.
“A lot of students come into the capstone class with a small idea,” says Gaskin, assistant professor of information systems. “But then they realize that this isn’t just a school project. This could be real; this could turn into a company.”
CattleGuard is expected to save ranchers money, allow them to manage larger herds, and, most importantly, save lives.
“We have great students that are going to do a lot of good using technology,” Meservy says. “Our goal is to help the students make a difference in their occupations, communities, and families.”