The information in this post is adapted from ABC News.
An electronic, Fitbit-style ear tag that is being developed for cattle could forever change the way graziers manage their livestock and properties. So far, The project has received a funding boost from Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships of $1.5 million to help commercialise the tag.
Researchers from James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville are collaborating with the Queensland Department of Science, the CSIRO and commercial partner Ceres Tag to adapt GPS technology in order to create small, affordable livestock ear tags. According to Ian Atkinson, a computational chemistry expert, the project will enable more accurate assessment of livestock condition. “The idea is, we’ll have a Fitbit for cows that will measure behaviour and temperature and things.” Professor Atkinson also said the device will switch on and off as required and harvest energy from its environment, meaning graziers will never have to replace batteries like they had to do with early prototypes.
The technology will use triangulation from solar-powered radio transmitters to provide an accurate picture of animal movements across a paddock or farm.
According to David Smith, the CEO and Development Director at Ceres Tag, “Food security is an increasingly important issue in many countries and providing a guaranteed record of an animal’s history dramatically increases its value… We’ll see theft reduction … an increase in operational and land-use efficiency and animal health and biosecurity.”
Professor Atkinson agreed that providing a paddock-to-plate picture for consumers through tracking individual animals could see the value of livestock jump on international markets. “Where animals have been, what they’ve grazed on — that key information actually has marketable value… That clean, green knowable information that you can prove … that information will start to have value, just like data about you on Facebook has value.” According to Professor Atkinson, if the technology becomes widespread, the wealth of data could also help livestock businesses plan well into the future for financial stability.