Hannah Powe 28 Feb 2018, 6 p.m. The Land
A new generation of smart ear tags are being developed to bring optimum traceability and provenance to the red meat industry, a concept society is demanding from Australian food production.
As part of a research and development project co-funded by a Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company, and in collaboration with CSIRO and Data61, Ceres Tag Pty Ltd will test the first prototypes of their Ceres Tag mid-year in a range of beef enterprises that make up a national panel of producers from every state.
Ceres Tag CEO, David Smith, Queensland, said the first edition of the tag will be for cattle but the second edition will be a smaller, lighter and even more energy efficient tag suitable for sheep and smaller animals.
Mr Smith has a family property in the South Burnett region of Qld and said the organisation started in August 2016 after they recognised their own on-property challenges were the same facing most livestock producers.
“We identified to start doing things better we needed data. We tried doing things with drones but it just wasn’t providing the data we needed, so we set out to develop the smart ear tag to provide a solution,” he said.
“First of all it had to be National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) compliant, then positioning, movement monitoring and temperature for health and biosecurity was added in.
“With those fundamentals it completes the total provenance aspect of animals - what they do, when they do it, how they do it and whether they are healthy or not.”
On-farm operating costs were expected to be reduced while operational efficiency increased from use of the tag, he said.
“The Ceres tag will give producers the data to make decisions more precisely and timely, to best utilise their land and animals, knowing where and how they are feeding to get the most out of the land,” Mr Smith said.
“The tag can add value to on-farm biosecurity with an ability to allow producers to know if an animal is sick earlier via the temperature monitoring, to stop it from spreading through the rest of their herd.”
Mr Smith said the main aspect of the tag that will make it stand out from the rest is its ability to last the life of an animal. “One of the major grievances of cattle producers is tag loss. The organisation has developed an alternative retention system that will significantly reduce tag loss,” he said.
“Unlike other tag developments around the world, where producers need to replace the batteries every three months, what is really special about this tag is producers will not have to replace the batteries because we harvest energy and we have unique intellectual properties as part of our agreement with CSIRO.
“If there is new technology or capabilities we can put into the tag via a firmware update.”
Producers will be able to read the tag’s data with the current infrastructure and software, Mr Smith said.
“The organisation is working to form relationships and collaborations with software platforms to enable the data the tag provides to be integrated into all the other data producers have for their property,” he said.
“We then offer an open API (publicly available application programming interface) for all the existing software providers, so if a producer is already using a platform to manage their livestock, then they will be able to access the data through these platforms,” Mr Smith said.
He said they won’t be looking to export the Ceres Tag to other countries until it has been accepted into the Australian market.
“We are working to support the Australian beef industry but longer term we will be looking to export the product, with many enquires already received from overseas,” he said.
“Our goal is commercialisation of a smart ear tag for livestock in Australian in the next two to three years.”