Australian university rolls out Fitbits for farm animals
Wearable motion sensors are being attached to sheep and cows on farms across Australia to provide powerful insights into the health and wellbeing of these animals.
Scientists at La Trobe University created the sensors – which analyse movement data much like a Fitbit that is worn by a human – to help farmers understand and act on an individual animal’s behaviour.
Dr Aniruddha Desai, director of La Trobe’s Centre for Technology Infusion, said the technology has the potential to transform farmers’ understanding of their livestock, which will lead to a significant economic benefit.
“The next generation of low cost and low weight sensors and the data they provide can bring the human factor back into farming,” Desai said.
“In the past, farmers got to know the habits of their individual animals. However, with large scale farming, that is now impossible and current systems of video monitoring are highly inaccurate.”
The scientists have carried out studies over the past three on three farms; a dairy farm in Tatura, sheep farm in Greta, and beef farm in Winchelsea.
“Our work has shown the potential of such technology to address important industry problems in Australia such as high lamb mortality rate in sheep and improving feed efficiency and pasture utilisation in both dairy and beef industries,” said Lab Trobe’s science leader for the programme, Dr Mark Jois.
The university will soon bring the technology to market so it can be applied across the broader local farming industry.
“Response from the farmers with whom we’ve worked has been unanimously positive and we are now seeking commercial partners to help make this technology a reality,” Desai said.