eShepherd virtual fencing given grant to protect the Reef 

eShepherd
eShepherd is a virtual fencing system where individual animals are fitted with a neckband that monitors their movement to stay within a pre-determined area

Australian AgTech company, Agersens, has secured a $335,000 grant to test if its eShepherd digital fencing platform can keep cattle from polluting or trodding the Great Barrier Reef.

eShepherd uses technology to control and move cattle with individual animals fitted with an intelligent neckband, which virtually connects to a base station and the eShepherd web application.

A grazier wanting to contain or move animals to a particular area can use the app to create a virtual paddock on their property.

The idea of the trial is to keep cattle away from the Reef by confining their movements with the strict grazing management that eShepherd can offer.

The grant has been funded by a partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

It is expected eShepherd will be able to exclude up to 400 cattle from catchment locations over the next 12 months and collect data on the effectiveness of the system in reliably keeping stock from entering sensitive riparian areas.

A desktop study will also be completed to demonstrate the costs and benefits of using the technology as part of an overall approach to improve grazing land management.

Agersens Chief Executive Officer, Jason Chaffey, said he is thrilled to be part of a program designed to result in better practices.

Jason Chaffey
Agersens CEO Jason Chaffey is in charge of the eShepherd Great Barrier Reef trial

This is a unique way of using digital tools to manage grazing and land restoration without the need for fencing, and if successful achieve positive outcomes for landholders, while improving water quality.

“The protection of the Great Barrier Reef is paramount and real change needs to start at a production level to minimise sediment runoff into waterways,” Mr Chaffey said.

“We believe we are part of the solution to improving land management practices, both in catchment areas and more broadly across the Australian grazing sector, through virtual fencing.

“eShepherd allows graziers to cost-effectively establish virtual fences in challenging terrain typically unsuitable for traditional fencing,” Mr Chaffey said.

“The cost of traditional fencing and its maintenance can be huge to a grazing business, however we now offer a solution to allow landowners to protect sensitive areas and minimise topsoil runoff into the waterways, by keeping stock away from eroding gullies and streambanks.

“Beyond stock exclusion, eShepherd also provides an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved grazing practice change across an entire property.

“eShepherd controls and moves animals automatically, enabling better pasture management by increasing rest periods to improve pasture quality.”

The data collected throughout the trial via the intelligent neckband will be used to track the position and behaviour of each animal relative to the virtual paddock boundary.

eShepherd-neckband
The eShepherd intelligent neckband is attached to the animal and then connects to a base station and web application to monitor their movement

The technology can also provide compliance data to verify animal location.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director, Anna Marsden, said poorer water quality caused by land-based runoff is a significant threat to the health of Australia’s irreplaceable ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef.

“Sediment and pollutants running into the Reef’s waters smother coral and seagrass, are toxic to marine life and contribute to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, and we must continue to work together and do better,” Ms Marsden said.

“This innovative project will add to the more than 60 Reef-saving projects we are delivering right now with over 65 project delivery partners. This builds on work by Queensland’s farmers and agricultural community who are already undertaking a high calibre of work to safeguard the future of the Reef.”

Mr Chaffey said the new trial is expected to commence from February 2021 and his team is actively seeking volunteer producers in eligible catchments to participate.

“We thank the Great Barrier Reef Foundation for this opportunity to showcase our technology and the proven benefits it can deliver, not just to the health of river and reef ecosystems, but to the financial performance of grazing businesses,” he said.

“We now look forward to partnering with them to deliver results for the Reef and for producers, and contributing to the sustainability of the Australian grazing sector.”

For more information on eShepherd or to become part of the Barrier Reef trial program, contact Agersens at info@agersens.com.au

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