Evaluating Virtual Fencing Technology at Field Scale Today
Chris Foster (Two Story Robot) email@example.com
Jonathan Bowers, Caleb Sharp, Courtney Milligan, Bronwen Evans (Two Story Robot Labs), Bruce Miller, Craig Gauld (OneOak Design) Xavier Dumouli, Alex Naylor (OneOak Design), Chris Solecki (Tatalrose Ranch)
|In progress. Results expected in February, 2023||FRG.11.21|
Fencing is costly, running between $1,560 to $4,660/km in AB and $17,270 to $20,000/km in BC. This cost
limits the adoption of both optimal grazing (e. intensive rotational grazing) and environmental (e.g., protection of sensitive habitats and riparian areas) management practices. Fences are prone to cutting and fire and moose and need maintenance. The lack of fencing is also a big deterrent to using cattle to graze crop residues, etc. on neighbouring operations.
Virtual fencing is essentially the same as invisible dog fences. The idea here is to develop and demonstrate that technology for cattle. The user would be able to define GIS/GPS boundaries (accurate to within 2 m) that fence cattle in or out of a particular area. The cattle would wear a collar fitted with a battery, GPS/LTE (4G cell) antennae, and a “bump” to conducts electricity to the animal. When the antenna senses that the cattle are approaching a defined boundary, the collar would emit both audible and electrical signals to discourage the cattle from approaching. The closer the cattle get to the boundary, the stronger the signals get. The LTE technology would work when the animals are in cell range, and work off GPS when it’s not. Pasture moves could be done remotely, by redefining the boundaries.
The technology would also indicate where animals are, and by periodically recording animal positions it may be able to interpret herd or animal behaviours (are they being chased? Sick? Dead?). So, some significant potential capital, labor, pasture productivity, animal health/welfare/management and environmental benefits.
There are similar systems already in existence in Norway ( and Australia (eShepherd) but these solutions are based on a more primitive network that isn’t compatible with our LTE towers.
There are three main tech partners:
- OneOak Design (Vancouver) is developing the hardware and collar materials
- Two Story Robot (Kamloops) is developing the software and user interface
- Telus is providing the chips, network connectivity, data transfer
Phase 1 developed the user interface to visualize the virtual fencing; this is a desktop application with basic tablet functionality. We tested the softwar e with ranchers in the field and received positive feedback. We developed an initial prototype collar with a previous hardware partner and ran three experiment attempts, but hardware failures prohibited us from declaring a successful trial.
Phase 2 is the development of our second generation collar, a new iteration built from the ground up with a new hardware partner (One Oak) and with all software development now led by Two Story Robot. These collars benefit from our experience in phase 1 and should address the hardware issues encountered in previous trials by providing extra physical robustness and improved functionality.
- Develop and demonstrate virtual fencing technology for cattle (Phase 2)
What they Will do
We plan to test at one operation in BC using 15 20 collars in early 2023. If trials are successful, there is the option of expanding to a Phase 3, season long test in mid 2023 with multiple users or with multiple groups at one site. We’ve secured relationships with providers that can supply components for hundreds or thousands of collars for future development.
There could be some significant potential capital, labor, pasture productivity, animal health/welfare/management and environmental benefits. The vision is to have the price to $1,000 or less per collar. This will be volume dependent. Ballpoint pens cost the equivalent of $180 when they came out; now they’re about 20 cents. They may be able to move away from a collar as well as battery and antennae technologies miniaturize.