116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Matthew Rooda worked on swine farms in high school and during his first two years of college, but the industry wasn’t part of his career plan.
“I was focused on being an obstetrician and being in health care,” said Rooda, now 28, recalling his transfer to the University of Iowa.
“The acceptance committee for medical school was looking for students who were doing something different. Delivering thousands of piglets and managing a farrowing house actually worked out to be a great thing for an application for medical school.”
That early experience came on pork operations managed by his father in the Pella and Oskaloosa area. Rooda’s career turn came after working as a nurse’s aide at an Iowa City retirement residence got him thinking about parallels between human and swine health.
“It wasn’t an immediate parallel,” he said. “It was one of those things.”
By 2015, Rooda and two partners were working with an engineer to adapt voice-recognition technology to identify young piglets in danger of being rolled over and crushed by their mother, a common loss in farrowing barns.
The project was boosted by a $3,000 grant from UI’s John Pappajohn Founders Club Fair, $1,500 from its John and Elsie Mae Ferentz Undergraduate Research Fund, and involvement with the Iowa Startup Accelerator in Cedar Rapids.
“It played a huge role early on, as we had no prior start-up experience,” Rooda said of the Accelerator. “1 Million Cups meetings were really helpful. It was the first place we presented our early idea.”
That support and experience helped launch SwineTech. The company’s technology to identify a piglet in distress has become PigFlow, a system that helps operators manage swine growth and health through the farrow-to-market cycle.
PigFlow allows producers to manage daily work flow more efficiently, tracking costs and labor inputs. The system is in use at operations across the United States and Canada.
“We’re really developing systems that improve labor efficiency and quality of care throughout all pig production,” Rooda said.
“Our advantage in the market is, we’re taking a labor-first approach focused on quality of care. We’re purely a workforce management approach to improving care.”
That includes helping operators train and communicate with new employees.
“We use some communication tools to help close the language gap,” Rooda said. “A lot of cultures have a tough time with local labor and immigrant labor coming together ” — a concern that’s only increased with post-pandemic workforce shortages.
“Labor’s tough, and the people (producers) are hiring have no experience with pigs,” he said. “We’re focusing on the training. It’s very difficult to explain succinctly in a couple days.”
SwineTech’s dozen employees “are really focused on bringing animal agriculture closer to the standards of human health,” Rooda said.
“We’re adamant that we can greatly improve the individual quality of care for every hog. That’s a big task.”
It’s also the confluence of Iowa’s agricultural background with the area’s entrepreneurial support system, Rooda said.
“We’re incredibly grateful to have great local talent,” he said.
What: Co-founder and CEO of Solon-based SwineTech Matthew Rooda will discuss his experience developing its software and system to support a more stable, sustainable and transparent livestock industry.
Where: Olympic South Side Theater, 1202 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids.
When: Doors open at 8:30 a.m., with the program at 9 a.m., Wednesday
Registration: Admission is free, eventbrite.com/e/358578577177