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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cambridge Brings the Internet of Things (IoT) to Livestock

As reported by Business Weekly: Cambridge Industrial Design (CID) has created the ‘udderly’ exceptional device for Irish client True North Technologies and it is now being trialed.

Packed with an array of sensors it tracks a cow’s every movement and is able to match this to particular behavior – such as grazing, socializing or simply lying down, chewing the cud. This information is then sent in real-time through mobile GSM networks to a central hub.

There it is analysed in conjunction with other data such as milk yields and grass length, which is monitored by the Grass Hopper measuring device, also designed by CID. enabling farmers to ensure that cows are grazing in the best area by creating location-based virtual electric fences using the cow bell collars, which confine them to specific pastures.

These geo-fences can be easily and remotely changed depending on grazing conditions – further increasing efficiency as they remove the time and manpower needed to manually put up and take down physical electric fences.

The collar is part of a pan-European project that also involves Teagasc (the Irish government agricultural research agency), Institute d’Laval in France and Agroscope, Switzerland.

Tim Evans, design director at CID, explained how Heidi met hi-tech.  He said: “Wearables, such as the Apple Watch, may be stealing the headlines, but tracking the behavior of cows is equally vital to farmers who want to best manage their grazing.

“In creating this sensor we took our inspiration from the traditional alpine cow bell, using a rounded shape to minimize the size and maximize strength. This ensures it is rugged enough to cope with being bashed against fences and feeding troughs, and simple enough for farmers to remove for cleaning and recharging.

The result moves wearable technology forward – and the cows think it is "udderly brilliant.”

Cambridge Industrial Design was also responsible for the manufacture of the cow bells, using one of its network of trusted suppliers. Created from super tough glass-filled nylon, they were manufactured using the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing process to enable fast prototyping and revisions during the field trial phase of the project.

“Contrary to popular belief, agriculture is increasingly reliant on technology to maximize yields and ensure the highest standards of animal welfare,” said Patrick Halton, managing and technology director, True North Technologies. “By combining our strengths in GPS and location technology with Cambridge Industrial Design’s skills we have been able to create an innovative, tough product that will help dairy farmers to optimize their operations.”

The cow bell is one example of Cambridge Industrial Design’s growing portfolio of wearable/location based designs. These also include the SureFlap pet door, which opens when triggered by the animal’s microchip, and the compact xNAV navigation module for drones.

The number of dairy cows in the EU 28 in 2013 stood at 23.475 million.  The UK had an estimated 1.84 million dairy cows as of June 2014.

There are over 65,000 dairy farms in the United States with an average herd size of about 100 per farm, with a median size of about 900 cows.  Pennsylvania for example, has 8,500 dairy farms with an estimated 555,000 dairy cows.  Milk produced in Pennsylvania yields an annual revenue of about US$1.5 billion.  

World wide the number of dairy cows in 2012 was estimated to be over 269 million, India having the largest number at an estimated 45.2 million.  Total world milk production is estimated to grow from 692 million tons in 2010 to 827 million tons in 2020, a 19% increase.