Hog wild

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 5:28pm | Y-12 Report | Volume 10, Issue 2 | 2014

Tennessee inventor Jake Gish, winner of the third annual Y‑12 Innovation Competition, has it out for feral hogs, and with good reason.

Originally found across much of Europe and Asia, the beasts, which are the size of small bears, have wreaked havoc on humans since at least the Middle Ages. The wild boars have since expanded their territory and in the past few decades have become increasingly prevalent — and troublesome — in the southeastern United States.

Gish, owner of Beyond Right Now Technologies, has proposed using three Y‑12 software programs to track the animals. At the innovation competition, which the Y‑12 National Security Complex hosts in conjunction with the Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., he was one of five regional entrepreneurs pitching business plans to a panel of local business representatives and inventors, much the same as contestants do on ABC’s television show Shark Tank. All five plans were based on Y‑12–developed technologies, which the site made available to the competitors for consideration.

Gish’s idea offers a potential solution to a surprisingly costly problem. “Right now, there’s no good way to track hogs until after they’ve done their damage,” said Y‑12’s Jeremy Benton. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that damage — agricultural erosion and livestock depredation, for instance — costs an estimated $1.5 billion annually in the U.S. “Current control methods include paying hundreds of dollars per hour to snipers in helicopters or installing large raccoon trap–type cages,” Benton said.

Initially, Gish hopes to commercialize Y‑12’s Safeguards and Security Tracking, Analysis, and Reporting System, pairing it with off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to provide farmers with an integrated perimeter surveillance and detection system. Eventually, that technology would be combined with two Y‑12 data analysis and prediction softwares, offering a packaged platform, which Gish calls the Pig Punisher, containing all the tools needed to identify and mitigate the feral hog problem.

“The drone would be used to collect surveillance data on the behaviors and migration patterns of feral hogs,” Gish explained. “We can then run that data through these software programs and allow farmers to more safely track and predict migration patterns, making control more efficient.”

Gish said of the business-plan competition, “This was a great opportunity to learn what kind of technologies are out there and what we can do with them.” As this year’s winner, he receives startup capital and consulting support from business experts to develop his proposal.

The Department of Energy has recognized the Y‑12 Innovation Competition, part of a long-standing partnership with the Enterprise Center, as a best practice. “This event allows us to help give startup businesses the boost they need to be successful, but it also gives us new perspectives on how private industry could use our technologies,” Benton said, noting that past proposals have dealt with everything from smart textiles to email marketing. “It is a great way for us to get brand recognition and get our name out in the region. This is the closest thing we get to a prime-time advertisement.”

Feral Hogs
Are growing in number: more than 5 million in 35 states
Carry 30 diseases and 37 parasites that can be transmitted to people,
pets, livestock and wildlife
Cause extensive damage to field crops, riverbanks and native ecosystems
Run up roughly $1.5 billion in damages and control costs in the U.S. each year
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture