Do you find it hard to keep track of your dog, cat or even your goldfish? Try being a cattle farmer, keeping track of thousands of cows grazing away across vast fields. Lack of real-time information on the nutritional state of the herd, pasture quality, pregnancies and epidemics prevents farmers and ranchers from making informed decisions related to maximizing yields.
Israeli company CattleSense has developed smart collar units with embedded sensors, radio transmitter, GPS, and even mini solar panels to power the unit!
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The company was founded in March 2012 by Ilan Arbel, who tells NoCamels: “The idea is to transfer the information about what is going on with the cows that graze in faraway fields, straight to the farmer.” He adds: “What happens is that the herds sometimes graze over distances as wide as 1,000 km between as many as 20,000 cows. If you think about Australia for instance, the areas are huge, there are a lot of cows to monitor and therefore a system that transfers the information from the cows to the farmer is required.”
Meat cow profits are calculated according to how many calves are weaned per year. Arbel claims that using current methods, the average yield is 50 percent, meaning that a herd of 1,000 cows would produce 500 weaned calves. However, Arbel says that using his system, the yield could rise significantly.
Artificial intelligence, satellites and sensors
“We use a smart collar with a non- invasive sensor that sends the signals, so the cow feels comfortable and suffers no pain,” Arbel says. “Inside the collar there are very sensitive sensors, and with the use of complex algorithms, we identify the physiological condition of the cows.”
The devices are powered through solar panels and on rainy days with no sun, by rechargeable batteries that last up to 10 days. Arbel says the collar can send information about the cows’ movement, nutritional intake and pregnancy.
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One problem that the company encountered, however, was how to transfer all that information to the farmer from areas that rarely have cellular network coverage.
Cattlesense found their answer in the sky. “What we use is a private network that connects between the cows,” says Arbel. “There is one main cow that is called ‘the hub’ and from the hub the information is sent to a communication satellite. From that satellite the data is uploaded onto the internet and the farmer can download it onto his computer.”
“Feeding the world is the pressing problem”
Arbel says that the idea came to him when thinking of world hunger. “I understood that in today’s world the money is going towards the creation of food for the growing world population, and I was searching for a way to produce bigger yields,” he says.
Cattlesense was developed as part of the Mofet Venture Accelerator, which focuses on agro-tech and cleantech ventures. The accelerator is owned by the Trendlines group. The system is currently in its pilot stage in Israel and Arbel plans to start marketing in the US and Australia next month.
Cattlesense’s NIS 2.5 million funding ($670,000) comes from the Mofet Venture Accelerator, Arbel himself and two of the company’s technology experts.