Beef 2015

Cattleman to showcase wireless herd technology at Beef 2015

James Nason, 19/02/2015
Will Willson and his family run a herd of 14,500 cattle across four properties near Calliope in Central Queensland. He also sits on the AgForce Cattle Board.

Will Willson and his family run a herd of 14,500 cattle across four properties near Calliope in Central Queensland. He also sits on the AgForce Cattle Board.

There was a time, not so long ago, when clouds were simply something that delivered rain every once in a while.

Now ‘a cloud’ can have a different meaning entirely.

These days the term can also refer to vast computer networks that can wirelessly capture, store and redistribute online information to any number of connected people with whom a user wishes to share their information.

It was only a matter of time before someone in the livestock sector came up with a practical use for the new type of cloud for cattle producers.

Among the first to have done so is Central Queensland cattleman Will Wilson.

At Beef 2015 Will will be presenting a system he has just developed which allows information captured on individual cattle in yards via RFID scanners and electronic scales to be instantaneously transferred via wireless technology to the cloud.

From there the information can be instantly accessed via a mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad or via a computer by the cattle’s owner, their staff or management, for use in herd management software. It can also be accessed by any other user the owner wishes to access the data, such as prospective buyers or financial advisors.

The new cloud-based Animal Registration System (ARS) – which Will has aptly named the ‘SmartARS’ – is not Will’s first foray into developing technology for cattle producers.

In 2011 he developed the iHerd App which allows producers to carry their herd management software with them at all times via their iPhone or iPad.

The iHerd app allows producers to electronically record and manage livestock paddock movements, treatments, and sales and transfers wherever they are, whether they are in the paddock, in the saleyards or at home, and to store and share the information with staff and management in real time.

The iHerd app has been an incredible success by any measure, now in use by more than 45,000 cattle producers in more than 120 countries according to Will.

Will Wilson at workThe fourth generation cattleman doesn’t look like a typical tech entrepreneur. No t-shirts with cool logos, slicked-back hair or designer stubble here, just RM Williams boots, work shirt and a genuine interest in seeing how emerging technology can be put to use to provide practical benefits for cattle producers.

Will said the SmartARS is the first system that allows instantaneous and seamless linking, via mobile iPhone or iPad, of the yards to the office or mobile-based herd management software.

The Smart ARS box is designed to be permanently stationed at a set of cattle yards. (While the box is transportable, producers with multiple yards would typically station a box at each set of yards).

All a producer needs to put it to use is an iPhone or iPad. The box and software integrates with most current weighing systems and RFID units, Will said.

The Smart ARS box.

The Smart ARS box.

The box enables all age and weight gain data captured on every individual animal as it moves through the yards to be instantaneously wirelessly transferred via Bluetooth to the cloud and also on the cattle owner’s mobile device. The animal history is also safely stored on the cloud.

Existing herd recording/management systems generally require the electronic recording box to be physically taken from the yards where the data is captured and taken back home to be downloaded on a computer.

Mr Wilson said feedback from iHerd users was that they wanted to be able to record information on individual animals in real time.

When his search of existing technology failed to identify anything that could do that, he decided to develop the technology himself, using MANDRA Limited, the company he founded to establish iHerd.

“It gives the abilities to link the yards with the office, in a way that you can either access the information directly from the cloud, or you can email that information straight back to a purchaser or an owner of a business or whoever you might want to send it to,” Will said.

“It also gives the ability to set draft gates and know exactly what number of animals have been drafted out in each direction in a transaction.

SmartARS software showing information  on an individual animal transferred via the SmartARS box.

SmartARS software showing information on an individual animal transferred via the SmartARS box.

“Some of the issues we have had with this existing type of technology, which are the traditional scale head units, is that they are not an upgradable system so they can’t continue to improve it into the future. The SmartARS has been designed to accept Firmware updates to allow for ongoing improvements without having to purchase new hardware.”

At a price point of $995, Will said the technology has also halved the price producers would normally be required to pay to get entry into a weighing system.

Beef export industry leader Richard Rains, who has mentored Will during his technology development journey, said his traceability products were arriving on the market at a critical time to help farmers provide more information to consumers about their stock as food security and food quality assurance issues gained greater prominence.

  • MANDRA will be at site 14 at Beef 2015



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