As founder and CEO of Roper, Maeve Garigan ’01, MA ’08, aims to revolutionize beef production with innovative technology — a GPS-enabled ear tag for cattle. “It’s like a Fitbit for cows,” she says. The tag allows ranchers to track the location and health of cattle over long distances, enabling them to better manage grazing, identify sick or distressed animals, and streamline recordkeeping.
“I was interested in working on technology specifically for rural and agricultural users because it is such an underserved market,” she says.
Garigan, who grew up on a farm in the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, was a first-generation college student. As a mechanical engineering major, she worked on a project building an autonomous underwater vehicle and found that she loved exploring the unknown and solving real-world problems. “The experience of going to Hopkins pushed me to expand my own intellect and creativity in ways that shaped everything else that followed,” she says.
After graduation, Garigan began a career in research and development working with elite military commands. Then, in 2017, while grieving the sudden death of two close friends, she left her job and embarked on a yearlong solo camping trip in the mountains of New Mexico. “I had this massive cleansing moment,” she says.
Eventually, she decided to start her own company, with a focus on serving rural communities. With support from the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program, she set up a working group with ranchers and listened as they shared their problems with tracking their cattle.
“That was the spark of it, and the rest of it unfolded from there,” she says.
She created a product concept and then won a series of grants and prizes to fund the development of a new cattle-tracking device. In 2018, she founded Roper with former colleague and fellow Johns Hopkins alumnus Dana De Coster, MIPP ’12, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL.
A recent pilot study showed that the tag works very well: It is lightweight and comfortable for the cow, as well as durable; it operates on ultralow power, with a small solar panel and battery; and it successfully transmits GPS location and activity data every hour for display on a mobile app.
Roper has filed multiple patents on its technology and is planning the commercial launch of its product in late 2022. “It’s not just about having a great idea, but it’s seeing the impact on other people’s lives that is the most fulfilling,” she says.