Norwegian company unites space technology and animal husbandry / News / The Foreigner

Norwegian company unites space technology and animal husbandry. Grazing cows and sheep are often fitted with bells around their neck to prevent farmers losing them. Four young inventors in Norway have now found a way to modernise and improve the time-honoured search-and-find aid. “Our device matches the bell’s size and shape, but is soundless,” Findmysheep co-founder Halvor Mjøen tells The Foreigner. “GPS satellites receive coordinates from the battery-powered transmitter inside the ‘bell’ at pre-programmable times of the day.” He also explains that farmers can choose the frequency and time-frame themselves. Sheep-satellite-server signal is then passed to the company’s back office system. Customers then login via mobile, computer, and/or tablet to see where their animals are.

norwayfarming, norwaysheep, technology



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Norwegian company unites space technology and animal husbandry

Published on Friday, 17th January, 2014 at 09:52 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 17th January 2014 at 10:27.

Grazing cows and sheep are often fitted with bells around their neck to prevent farmers losing them. Four young inventors in Norway have now found a way to modernise and improve the time-honoured search-and-find aid.

Sheep in Norway with GPS 'bell'
The company's system will tell the farmer where the sheep is at any given required time.Sheep in Norway with GPS 'bell'
Photo: Halvor Mjøen/Findmysheep


No bell

“Our device matches the bell’s size and shape, but is soundless,” Findmysheep co-founder Halvor Mjøen tells The Foreigner. “GPS satellites receive coordinates from the battery-powered transmitter inside the ‘bell’ at pre-programmable times of the day.”

He also explains that farmers can choose the frequency and time-frame themselves. Sheep-satellite-server signal is then passed to the company’s back office system. Customers then login via mobile, computer, and/or tablet to see where their animals are.

“We decided to use a ‘bell’ form, as sheep tend to put their head through the gaps in fences to eat things on the other side. Anything hanging around the sheep’s neck is dangerous and the concave shape helps the animal pull their head out, preventing snagging,” says Mr Mjøen.

Another reason they chose a ‘bell’ is “because farmers think of their animals’ well-being. They have used bells for 200 to 300 years and anything new-fangled could meet resistance.”

So what gave you the idea to embark on the enterprise?

“My sister took over our parents’ farm in 2009. We brought our sheep down from the mountains after the grazing season had finished that year. It was late November and it was snowing, and some of the animals were not in the herd. So we went on skis to see if we could find them, but it’s pretty hard to spot a white sheep in the snow. We lost 15 to 20 per cent of them.”

The device can also be used for cows
The device can also be used for cows
Halvor Mjøen/Findmysheep
Mr Mjøen adds there was a GSM-based system in place at the time, but there is no mobile coverage in their area of western Norway.

“That vendor’s solution is really good, and we would have bought it instead of developing a new one if it had worked where we needed it to,” he remarks. “Of course, even GPS-based systems have their weak points. Coverage in hilly or mountainous terrain in certain herding areas can be non-optimal, and signals can be weak if sheep go into a cave, say.”

What happens then?

“Our system sends a warning to the user if the coordinates transmitted by the device around the sheep’s neck remain unchanging over a certain time-period.”

A lifesaver

According to Mr Mjøen, their invention has proven its worth on two particular occasions.

“Sheep don’t like walking backwards. Some sheep in Sogn og Fjordane County’s Førde municipality got stuck on a cliff once. The farmer was able to see this on his device and eventually managed to rescue them by boat. Another time, a sheep fell on its back and didn’t move. They thought it was dead, but went up and rolled it back over,” he says.

How many have you sold since you started?

“2012 was the prototype season with 1,500 units. This increased to 3,500 the following year. We started sales again on the 01st A cow having the device put on
A cow having the device put on
Halvor Mjøen/Findmysheep
October for 2014’s season, with 3,800 units having been purchased so far. We can produce up to 10,000 per year.”

“We originally developed the system in the farm’s barn just for personal use, never intending it for sale. But it turned into a commercial development after government funding started.”

Moreover, there are plans afoot to expand the current six-person company.

“The system is being tested out on reindeer in Norway, cattle in Brazil, camels in Africa, and elephants,” Mr Mjøen divulges. “We’re looking for a bigger barn now, so to speak.”

Facts                                        

  • Rechargeable battery lasts roughly one grazing season.
  • Inductive charging through a weatherproof sealed and hardened plastic unit (similar to an electric toothbrush).
  • 1,749 Norwegian kroner ex VAT per unit (roughly 282 US dollars/207 euro/173 pounds sterling at today’s ROE).
  • 1 krone ex VAT per message (about 16 cents (US)/11 cents (euro)/10 pence).

·         The login system is free.




Published on Friday, 17th January, 2014 at 09:52 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 17th January 2014 at 10:27.

This post has the following tags: norwayfarming, norwaysheep, technology.





  
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