Internet of Things for animal health

Project Case | ICT/Health & AgriFood | Vitulo Plus / VKON

In terms of numbers: by 2013, there were 10.8 million agricultural holdings within the EU-28. (1) As far as livestock is concerned, the European Union (EU) is the world’s third largest producer of beef after the USA and Brazil, producing 7,9 million tons of carcasses per year. Livestock industry contributes to the economy, rural development, social life, culture and gastronomy of European countries. (2)

The market value of the processed meat is expected to rise from 714 billion dollars in 2016 to over 1.5 trillion dollars by 2022. (3) Moreover, industrialization on the supply side and changes of consumption behavior, have led to significant changes within the livestock industry, allowing mass production of animal products to meet the growing needs of an expanding global population.

Currently, societal concerns strike on the European beef industry, facing unprecedented challenges, with questions related to animal welfare, environmental impact, origin and authenticity of beef, nutritional benefits, and consistency of eating quality. These have the potential to affect the whole industry, especially the farmers. (4)
Therefore, it is essential to gather accurate information and analytical data, towards implementing agriculture best practices, in order to maintain and develop an economically viable and sustainable industry.

To address these new challenges, the deployment of Smart Farming has become a reality. In this sense, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA) estimate that this solution could increase total return of farms in a range of 5 to 20%. One of the practices of Smart Farming is indeed the use of the Internet of Things (IoT), which puts into relation equipment and devices used in livestock industry.

There are numerous IoT applications in Farming, such as collecting data on temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, pest infestation and soil content. This data can be used to automate farming techniques, as well as enabling to take informed decisions, which let improve outputs’ quality and quantity, minimizing risks and wastes and reducing effort required to manage crops.

By using so the latest “state-of-the-art” wireless and artificial intelligence technologies available, the VituloPlus BV project was established as a joint venture between two companies: on one hand an ICT and product design company, Factic BV (the tech-provider), and on the other hand a specialist company in the animal sector which develops and manages veterinary innovation projects, VKON. The aim pursued was to develop a tool to help farmers’ management to monitor every veal, ensuring their individual health and stress status.

Therefore, this project of Internet of “Animal Health” Things enables to monitor 24x7x365 livestock heads, anticipating quick diagnosis and limiting antibiotics doses just to sick targeted animals, making possible to stop cross contamination to other veals. Moreover, there is a further benefit from this project: it allows reducing even more the usage of antibiotics, since it’s no longer need of whole flocks preventively being treated. Stress levels during lifespan of calves are monitored in combination with with geo-location data, so it becomes very easy to determine levels of stress and location of occurrence.

During its lifetime, Vitulo PlusTM sensor can be scanned with the Vitulo Plus free APP. This free APP can be installed on generic Bluetooth enabled devices such as IOS and Android smartphones, tablets or even any PC Operating systems-based devices. With this APP, and through the unique calf ISO number it is possible to access to all relevant information registered and physically stored on the Vitulo Plus sensor internal memory.

The overall result of the project is that farmers will have a care free system which proofs levels of healthy life of their animals (to what extent they are less sick and less stressed), while reducing costs by diminishing antibiotics usage. Moreover, participation in ACTTiVAte program has been essential to get to the current situation of having a prototype developed and validated with first users. The acceleration made is based on joint efforts to overcome technical issues.

Furthermore, participation in ACTTiVAte has facilitated the development of alternative market entrance strategies and viable business models, as well as investment of additional nearly half million Euros and a specific innovation loan of 150 K Euros in 2018. This and further investments will also open up new scalable opportunities and thus lower costs and prices, which likely lead to first national sales in 2020 and international ones in 2021.

(1) https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Farm_structure_statistics

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6039325/

(3) https://www.statista.com/topics/4880/global-meat-industry/

(4) https://www.statista.com/statistics/263979/global-cattle-population-since-1990/