Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Virtual fencing the future of farming: US expert

Virtual fencing the future of farming: US expert

The man considered the father of virtual fencing says the concept is the future of Australian production farming.

Virtual fencing confines livestock to boundaries without the need for an actual fence, instead using coordinates, wireless technologies and sensors to control where the animals can graze.

Dean Anderson from the United States Department of Agriculture has been speaking at a symposium at the University of Sydney Centre for Carbon, Water and Food at Camden about the opportunities virtual fencing provides.

Dr Anderson also joined the precision grazing management tour in Armidale in northern NSW in the lead up to the symposium.

He says he's impressed with some of the technology being piloted in Australia.

"It's some fantastic gadgetry that I think has some fantastic potential and I think that virtual fencing, tied into the type of things I've seen this week will make it an even more productive and meaningful way to manage free ranging animals," he said.

Dr Anderson says his involvement with virtual fencing spans over thirty years.

"One of the biggest challenges world over is distribution, and I came to the conclusion of virtual fencing in managing free ranging animals," he said.

"Internal fencing, in my opinion, is at many times built in the wrong place after the year in which it's built.

"It's static, and when you think about it we're trying to manage two dynamic resources, that is the plant community and the animal community."

Dr Anderson says virtual fencing enables a person to "control animals in real time" without requiring any fences on the landscape.

The polygons work both to confine animals inside of them, as well as to exclude animals from areas, such as endangered species.

Because of the dynamic nature of virtual fencing, Dr Anderson says boundaries are not exactly cut and dry, as with traditional physical fences.

"You must be able to accept leaky boundaries, because virtual fencing is based upon modifying animal behaviour," he said.

Zachary Economou is an honours student at the University of New England at Armidale, who had the opportunity to share his research with Mr Anderson this week.

He says it's been great getting feedback on his studies from a world leader in the field.

"He's been the person that I've referred to through my whole assignment and literature review," he said.

Mr Economou is studying how changing camp locations can influence sheep behaviour.

"I wanted to see how sheep behaved when you removed their primary camp site, typically at the top of the hill," he said.

"A few interesting things have come out of this, in terms of where sheep want to move when you remove that camp site, and how they've intensified their urge to get to the top of the paddock, which is pretty natural."

No comments:

Post a Comment