Farming is traditionally an industry that requires large investments of time and money, but for low returns. Any tool that can help producers manage their livestock in large remote areas to produce better quality, healthier animals with fewer losses to disease or accidents is always welcome. The EU-funded Horizon 2020 project STEPLA PLUS developed the first ICT service for livestock breeders that offers monitoring and traceability capabilities to locate animals in real time. It comprises an electronic collar for collecting data, which are sent to the cloud via an Internet of Things network and analysed using Big Data algorithms. The initiative aims to provide a global platform for livestock production, generating an ecosystem of mobile application software for use by farmers, local authorities, veterinarians, slaughter houses and even consumers. “Thanks to the app, farmers will know where and how their livestock is from their smartphone,” says project coordinator Carlos Callejero. User interfaces, databases and functions are all interconnected through a common cloud solution to ensure data confidence. “Through this system information is distributed between stakeholders, for example a record completed by a veterinarian is automatically shared with the farmer,” explains Callejero. A lasting solution Researchers created a highly durable prototype for cows featuring high radio-frequency performance, activity and temperature sensors and a long-life battery. The prototype can therefore report back on the animals’ location, mobility and health, sending the data to the open source cloud-based platform FIWARE, where it is processed and analysed to determine the animal’s condition. One of the greatest challenges was developing a collar casing that can withstand impacts, adverse weather conditions, and is suitable for use in remote rural areas, where telecommunications coverage is poor. According to Callejero: “Our device is robust, lightweight, ergonomic and waterproof, and will be your animals’ best friend.” In addition, researchers increased the power of the collar antenna and reduced the size and cost of the electronics. They also developed new sensing capabilities in the form of a temperature probe and adopted the collar for other types of animals. Animals kept safe and healthy The electronic collars allow farmers to always know where their animals are, their body temperature, their activities and their general status. “The device helps farmers by reducing animal losses, reducing livestock health problems and improving calving rates and animal welfare,” comments Callejero. Furthermore, it will improve meat traceability and identification of the environmental impacts of livestock farming activities. The system is also being extended to horses, sheep, goats and even pets, and wildlife like wild boar, deer and birds for easy location and better understanding of their behaviour. It is already helping lead the digital transformation of the livestock sector in over 700 farms in northern Spain. STEPLA PLUS’s expansion to the rest of Europe will address a potential market of more than 90 million cows and pilot studies will be conducted in France, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom to boost the development of the network. "The system will facilitate farm management both in Europe and around the world by reducing losses, optimising resources and helping increase profitability. The commercialisation of STEPLA PLUS has begun under the brand Digitanimal, not just in Europe, but also in Australia, Colombia and South Africa among others," Callejero points out.
STEPLA PLUS, livestock, farmer, collar, data, smartphone, FIWARE, DIGITANIMAL