Agersens and The Ohio State University have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that paves the way for the two organizations to implement research trials to determine the efficacy and economics of the eShepherd system for U.S. conditions.
EShepherd is a smart collar system for livestock, enabling cattle producers to create “virtual fences” and use their smart device to remotely fence, muster and monitor their livestock around the clock from anywhere in the world, according to the announcement from Agersens, an Australia-based agricultural technology company that develops virtual fencing technology for livestock industries.
The technology was developed by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), and Agersens holds the worldwide exclusive license.
Agersens chief executive officer Ian Reilly said the team at Ohio State had the expertise and knowledge the company needed to better understand local cattle and dairy markets and determine how virtual fencing technology can help Ohio farmers get the most out of their land and livestock.
Reilly said the virtual fencing platform “is set to revolutionize livestock management by unlocking value from the digital transformation of the American beef and dairy industries and will make farming more efficient, more manageable and less labor intensive.”
This latest MOU comes on the heels of similar memorandums struck with the University of Idaho and Kansas State University in 2018, the company said, as well as an extended collaboration agreement with CSIRO formalized in November.
U.S. land-grant universities have a unique role in providing farm extension services through their agricultural education mission for agricultural producers, Agersens said; in contrast, in Australia, such services are typically offered by state government agriculture departments and research and development corporations.
“Ohio State will be seeking to add eShepherd to their kit of extension service technologies that can help farmers increase their efficiency and maximize productivity,” Reilly said.
Dr. John Foltz, chair of the Ohio State department of animal sciences, said, “The virtual fence is an exciting technology, which we hope to utilize in numerous research projects to understand its potential as a livestock management tool. It appears to have some very unique capabilities and also generates large amounts of precision livestock data, which will be valuable to our research scientists.”
The virtual fencing technology uses a global positioning system (GPS)-enabled, solar-powered smart collar containing a CSIRO-developed algorithm and an audio cue to train cattle to stay within their prescribed virtual boundary, Agersens explained.
The ability of the GPS-enabled collars to monitor and move the herd in real time using mobile technology appealed to Ohio State animal science associate chair Dr. Anthony Parker.
“The position of the cattle can be observed in real time from the office on a tablet or computer. The technology has many practical applications for cattle producers in Ohio, from avoiding riparian, protected or overgrazed areas to moving cattle over a landscape to ensure an even grazing pressure,” Parker said.
“The eShepherd technology fits within existing research being undertaken at The Jackson Agricultural Research Station and the Eastern Agricultural Research Station with global positioning systems to better understand cattle behavior,” he added.
The eShepherd virtual fencing technology was patented by CSIRO and licensed exclusively to Agersens worldwide. The business has already received orders for thousands of collars in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada and the U.K., the company said.