Article by: Hari Yellina
In a time of severe labour constraints, remote monitoring equipment is gaining popularity in beef farms as farmers look for the best investment options for record livestock returns. Intelligent ear tags and wireless trough sensors, that replace labor-intensive operations with technology that doesn’t require a large upfront or ongoing investment, are in high demand. The fact that these technologies are also now a few years old and proven their worth has coincided with the current economic condition on farms, causing their expansion to soar. As a result, the Australian companies who created the technology are seeing fantastic growth and growing overseas. Ceres Tags have been shipped since their commercial launch less than a year ago at Beef Australia in Rockhampton.
The company is set to raise one of the largest agtech capital raises in Australia in the coming months, allowing for further international expansion, including the opening of a US office. On the first day of Ceres Tags’ introduction in May, a rancher from Montana made the first e-commerce purchase. The Ceres system is the world’s first animal monitoring information platform with direct-to-satellite capability through a proprietary smart ear tag. It is a solar-powered device that allows livestock owners anywhere in the world to capture real-time information on their stock without being on-the-spot. It enables for the monitoring of biosecurity, health, welfare, performance, and the supply chain network’s traceability and provenance, as well as the identification of theft.
The accelerometer in the tag has been used to construct an algorithm that samples the pattern of behaviour over a rolling six-day period. This metric is updated and informed on a regular basis by the tag, which uses machine learning to do so. David and Melita Smith, fifth-generation Queensland cattle breeders, devised it. Aileron Station, north of Alice Springs, was the first cattle enterprise in Australia to perform a large trial of the tags, and the results have been good in both herd and pasture management, according to the owners. The tags were also extremely useful in tracking cow movement during a recent blaze. Last year, Aileron increased the number of tagged livestock from ten to 90. The objective now is to add another 200 animals the following quarter.
The Achilles heel had always been that you couldn’t capture information at the source on a regular basis, down to the individual animal level. “We want to be able to follow the entire supply chain, from paddock to plate, at the end,” he explained. “We looked all across the globe. Ceres Tags were the only ones that could be utilised at a distant location with little communication. The data is sent immediately from the animal’s ear to a constellation of low-earth-orbit satellites, which are constantly monitored. This ensures that data can be captured and stored securely without the use of additional expensive infrastructure like tower structures. It implies that the owners get information on a life-of-beast basis, which is what they are already accustomed to.