Well Cow, the Edinburgh-based company focusing on cattle healthcare technology and Ziconix based in Cambridge have completed a trial of a new farm reader as part of a SMART:Scotland feasibility study project. The company was awarded innovation funding of £96,000 by Scottish Enterprise to progress the technology closer to commercialisation.
Well Cow currently offer a bolus sensor which stays inside the rumen of a cow (a part of the cow’s digestive system) and transmits pH/temperature readings to a handheld reader used by a researcher or farmer. To fully commercialise Well Cow's technology, it is necessary to enable the data from the bolus to be read autonomously and to be transmitted to the cloud where it can be analysed and the dietary health of the animals to be monitored.
A new bolus and gateway reader has been developed, using the latest radio technologies to radically increase the sensitivity of the bolus to the reader transceiver and in a joint trial with Vodafone using its new NB-IoT network. This provides a simpler solution to allow farmers to track the wellbeing of their cattle and also allows wireless transmission of up to 30 metres of pH and other sensitive date from the cow’s rumen to the farm reader and then up to the cloud where the information can be stored.
Steve Sims of Ziconix says “The technical challenges were very big, the rumen of a cow is not a nice place for any electronics to survive and establishing reliable radio transmissions to and from the cow, through its body mass and achieving the distance required is very difficult and required us to use the most sensitive radio transceivers available and fine tuning of the antenna system to accomplish this”.
Malcolm Bateman of Well Cow said “We’re very happy with the results of the project, this is a step change in our ability to offer farmers an automated system for checking the dietary health of their animals. It also opens up the possibility for us to monitor other aspects of animal health using the new sensors we have incorporated in our latest bolus”.
Jim Watson, Director of Innovation and Enterprise Services at Scottish Enterprise said: “Well Cow is creating an innovative product that meets a strong customer need in the global marketplace, with data collection at the heart of its offering. There’s an estimated £18 billion of productivity and innovation benefits to be realised, as well as an additional £500m annually in exports, for Scottish companies that embrace data to enhance their operations. With the help of our grant, we’re supporting this data-driven innovation to take place in Scotland and we wish the company every success with its growth ambitions.”
Well Cow Ltd is a subsidiary of Roslin Foundation and was established to provide a vehicle to introduce new technology to animal health monitoring. The company has worked closely with The Technology Partnership PLC and has been supported by the Genomia Seed Fund.
Ziconix specialises in developing end to end communications systems which have to operate in difficult environments working from bare sensor elements through to cloud computing where necessary.