Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ag Business Launched at Mines Sees Continual Growth

Dr. Pat Zimmerman launched C-Lock Inc. while director of the Institute of Atmospheric Science at South Dakota Mines. He is pictured by one of the original automated cattle-feeding systems called GreenFeed, which measures methane and carbon dioxide emissions in ruminant animals. 

RAPID CITY, SD (Nov. 17, 2020) — C-Lock Inc, a Rapid City agricultural company utilizing technology developed at South Dakota Mines, has grown into an international player with sales exceeding $5 million a year and a customer base in more than 35 countries.

Launched in 2005 by Dr. Pat Zimmerman, then the director of the Institute of Atmospheric Science at South Dakota Mines, C-Lock produces automated cattle-feeding systems – GreenFeed, SmartFeed and SmartScale.  The systems record critical data about livestock health with the goal of improving efficiency, productivity and sustainability.

“I think my career as the Director of the Institute of Atmospheric Science and Department Chair at Mines helped prepare me to create our company,” Zimmerman says.

GreenFeed, Zimmerman’s first system, measures methane and carbon dioxide emissions in individual ruminant animals. In more simple terms, GreenFeed measures the burps and breathes of livestock, providing information that tells a producer such things as which animals best utilize feed, which feed is highest quality and if an animal is sick. Methane emissions from cattle are also a greenhouse gas and contrite to climate change. GreenFeed has been used world-wide to study the effectiveness of many varied methods to decrease cattle methane which will inevitably decrease the environmental footprint of agriculture and increase sustainability. Fortunately, many methods that have been researched to reduce methane emissions from cattle can also have an economic benefit to producers because they lead to more efficient management and growth of livestock.

Zimmerman says the agriculture industry and ag researchers utilize GreenFeed to improve animal genetics by removing less efficient animals from a herd. It also helps them select better feed, identify additives that reduce methane production and reduce costly illnesses and prevent deaths in livestock with early disease detection.

C-Lock sells a GreenFeed for large animals, a second for smaller animals such as sheep or goats and a third “pasture system.”

While GreenFeed measures methane and carbon dioxide emissions, SmartFeed, which the company developed in 2017, is a self-contained portable system designed to measure feed intake from individual large animals. The system continually logs data about feed intake per visit per animal. Like GreenFeed, it transmits real-time data which a producer can access on a smart phone or computer. For instance, SmartFeed might alert a producer if an individual animal’s intake is down or has been missed altogether. Zimmerman says it helps cattle producers make better informed decisions on feed efficiency in a herd. “We can tell where the calories go,” he says. “We can see when they are starting to run out of good grass, and we can see if they are becoming sick.”

The company also produces a SmartFeed Pro which is designed with a specially designed door for better control. This design is used largely by research scientists.

The company’s third product, SmartScale, is a wireless cloud-connected scale system that captures an animal’s weight and behavior each time the animal drinks water. Again, it collects the data in real time identifying individual animals by ear tag.

Zimmerman, who worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research for 18 years prior to his time at Mines, has handed over much of the day-to-day operations of C-Lock to his sons, Scott Zimmerman, Tom Zimmerman, and longtime employee Mike Billars. Both Tom and Mike are South Dakota Mines graduates. Several other of C-Lock’s 35 employees are also Mines grads and the company has also employed numerous South Dakota Mines students as interns.

Zimmerman is proud that C-Lock produces much of its manufacturing needs in-house rather than depending upon other manufacturers. For this reason, the company has held up well under the stresses of the pandemic when other companies struggled with supply chain issues.

C-Lock 3D prints parts for their systems using five printers that run virtually nonstop. Most of their metal work needs are done in-house. The company also does its own powder coating, laser cutting and builds the trailers needed for each system.  

In September, C-Lock launched its Research Equipment Grant program, funding more than $500,000 in equipment grant proposals to institutions using C-Lock technology in new and cutting-edge research and testing. The company receive 44 research proposals from 17 countries and the United States.

“We were thrilled with the quality and quantity of proposals and feel this is a clear indication of the broad application and interest in our technology globally,” says Scott Zimmerman.

As the company continues to grow, the Zimmerman's are excited to see what their homegrown company will accomplish in the near future and in the long-term. 

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,475 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $66,500. For these reasons College Factual ranks South Dakota Mines, the #1 Engineering School for Return on Investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram and Snapchat.  

Contact: Lynn Taylor Rick, (605) 394-2554, Lynn.TaylorRick@sdsmt.edu

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