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Smart Tags Revolutionise New Zealand Cattle Industry

At the top of New Zealand’s exported goods sits farming. Specifically, dairy, beef and sheep farming are the biggest contributors to the country’s revenues. Thus, the smart tag invented by two Massey University Engineering PhD students and future entrepreneurs, Tyrel Glass and Baden Parr, is game-changing technology for the agricultural industry.

Seeing how useful the tech is in tracking cow’s health remotely, their agri-tech start-up has now raised NZ$ 1 million from investors to fast-track the development of their smart ear tag sensors. The newly raised funds will be used to accelerate the company’s product development and validation in preparation for large scale trials planned for later this year. To date, several expressions of interest have been generated from farmers in Waikato and the South Island.

While their fledgling enterprise has its immediate sights on the New Zealand market, where a farmer’s average dairy herd is 440 cows, other agriculture-heavy countries are in the offing as well. For one, Ireland and Brazil have been identified as future markets.

The smart device can transmit crucial health and location data to dairy farmers within seconds. The small internet-enabled device clips onto a cow’s ear, allowing farmers to continuously monitor the animal’s health, grazing and breeding habits even from afar.

At the centre of it all, of course, is ICT. For one, machine learning is used to process data from the device’s temperature, movement, and location sensors. As a result, this helps farmers map animal behavioural patterns and detect the early onset of illnesses in real-time.

What makes it even more useful is the device’s weight. The company’s small, lightweight device is 100 times more power-efficient than traditional GPS-based devices using bulkier battery packs.

We see a future where every farmer has detailed information on the health and wellbeing of every animal. The power of remote sensing in animal health is huge and Protag is the gateway into this data, providing advanced analytics for each animal that can map the whole story of the cow, and at an accessible price point for all farmers.

Tyrel Glass, Smart Tag Co-inventor, Massey University 

Fellow student inventor Baden Parr adds, “Mastitis, lameness (leg and foot pain), and reproduction issues are the main ailments dairy cattle face. By detecting these early, our smart tag paves the way for more sustainable farming and improved animal welfare.”

Associate Professor in Computer Engineering and PhD supervisor of Tyrel and Baden, Fakhrul Alam, said that the two students have created potentially game-changing technology for the agri-tech industry. Their engineering smarts, combining cutting-edge remote sensing technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), have brought crucial insights to dairy farmers.

Of course, New Zealand’s economy is based mainly on its export of agricultural commodities (e.g., dairy products, meat, forest products, fruit and vegetables, wine). Dairy is still the lead export commodity. By utilising ICT to the fullest, its export prospects get brighter.

With innovation like this, the future is bright for New Zealand’s digital transformation. Emerging technologies in ICT are enablers that can be deployed for highly impactful outcomes. An example of technology in action is the country’s digital invoicing initiative which should make payments easier for everyone.

Another great aspect is the rising government support. Wellington is not just creating infrastructure and conducive legislation to the country’s digital journey but has put invested significantly to grow the digital economy. Officially titled the “We See Tomorrow First” campaign, its global initiative is a collaboration between the industry and the government. By putting the focus on its tech capabilities to the world, the nation hopes to attract both talent and investment from overseas.

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