In this Use Case, tech-company Sensolus partnered up with Ilvo and Inagro to develop a monitoring tool that keeps track of the location of cows, in the stable or outdoors. Developing reliable soft- and hardware seems straight-forward enough. Yet, guaranteeing the accuracy of indoor and outdoor location detection was a bigger challenge than expected, due to the diversity of stables and meadows where cows are kept. Laurence Claeys, co-founder of Sensolus, tells us about the business side, the successes up till now and the challenges she meets in this Use Case.
‘We’re a tech-company, strong in geolocation applications for objects. We participate in this project because we want to expand our business into the agricultural sector.’
Benefits of location trackers
‘There are two main drivers for farmers to use a location tracker on animals. One is regulatory and the other is economic,’ Claeys explains. Research shows that ammonia emissions decrease directly when cows spend more time outdoors. When governments set a limit on ammonia emissions, monitoring exactly how many hours the stable is empty and all cows are grazing outside helps to stay within the limits. ‘Unfortunately, most European countries are slow to introduce laws on this subject. The economic driver is much more important for us at this moment.’ With a location tracker on his animals, a farmer can prove that for example his pigs indeed fed in the location with the best acorns. He can thus sell his meat at a higher price. ‘Knowing the whereabouts of the animals in combination with the characteristics of the land, tells the farmer what they ate. Especially when animals roam freely, like often happens in the mountains, this is valuable information.’
‘Putting the location tracker on a moving animal, such as cows or pigs, requires a completely different setup than sticking the tracker to an object. We spent quite some time to design a good collar, because the GPS needs to stay on top of the animal for good signal transmission.’ Designing the optimal firmware to guarantee a long-life battery time of the location tracker on the animal is a tough job to do too. But the hardest part were the different stables, not the animals. ‘The difference between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is easy to tell for you and me. But what properties of ‘inside’ and outside’ can be measured to make a reliable system, even in half-open stables? It took us some time, but we got this right now.’
For Sensolus, an important advantage of joining IoF2020 is the opportunity to expand their network into the agricultural sector. ‘We sell our system mainly via partners and not directly to the farmer. Building a strong relation with other suppliers and contractors is thus very important. We would very much like to combine our location data in a dashboard with other data, such as temperature or heartrate. An important next step is to build wireframes and test the different features with the farmers.’
co-founder of Sensolus
Author: Renske Solkesz, Schuttelaar & Partners