Fast-tracking 'Fitbits' for cattle

31 May 2018

So-called 'biohackers' who were happy to implant themselves with trackers could revolutionise Australia's red meat industry.

A breakthrough in the form of ‘Fitbits’ for cows, or EmbediVets as the devices are now known, look like becoming market reality as soon as early 2019 according to Tim Cannon, biohacker and Livestock Labs CEO.

"I and a group of friends played around with this idea of implanting trackers in ourselves. We invested about $2,000 of our own money but because of a whole range of issues, including privacy, the idea was shelved," said Tim.

"The concept probably would've stayed sitting on that shelf, unless one of my Australian followers didn't get in touch to tell me what was going on in Australia's livestock industry."

What was going on was GrowLab, a ’deep tech accelerator’ program developed by Cicada Innovations and MLA Donor Company (MDC), to support accelerated commercialisation of advanced technological innovations for the red meat industry.

A tracker for cattle

"When it was suggested our tracker would be ideal for cattle it was like 'of course why didn't I think of that?'," Tim said. He went on to found Livestock Labs and establish offices in Australia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The GrowLab program supported the development of the business plan for Livestock Labs and road-testing, which initially involved three Utah State University cows being implanted to assess the physical viability of EmbediVets.

Livestock Labs have now partnered directly with MDC to co-fund large-scale paddock trials with commercial producers and research herds at Charles Sturt University and the University of New England.

How will it work?

Implanted under the chin using local anaesthetic, the trackers will transmit data such as consumption of food and water, number of steps taken and health indicators like temperature and changes in heart rate. This could allow producers to remotely monitor and detect early the onset of illness, distress or labour.

This data will be managed through a smartphone app with built in alerts. Other potential uses for the tracker extend to traceability, genetic feedback and identification.

Issues to be resolved include ensuring lifetime viability of the tracker and that they stay in place – but not so much that it becomes a challenge when the animal enters the food chain.

Innovation outside of the box

"Every time I meet a producer they tell me if this can lessen the burden of paperwork and compliance they are all for it. Especially if it is simple to use," Tim said.

According to Tim a 'thinking outside the box approach' using innovators like hackers is speeding up the process to commercialisation.

"Hackers are used to working differently and quickly. They like solving problems and they tend to do it rather cheaply," he said.

Tim applauded MLA Donor Company for making the investment and commitment to attract entrepreneurs and disruptive ideas to the Australian red meat industry.

"As a biohacker I want to work for the good of humankind. Biohackers are here to improve lives and what better fit than in moving into the food chain and ensuring better delivery of protein to the world," he said.

More Information

I+E Connect

I+E Connect is an innovation and entrepreneurship connection platform that provides a unique ‘landing pad’ in Australia for local and global ag-tech and food-tech entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors who want to work  with the Australian red meat industry.

I+E CONNECT delivers transformational change and helps prepare the Australian red meat industry for the future by:

  • attracting and supporting entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups to develop and  commercialise new and disruptive ideas
  • articulating industry pain points and identifying investable opportunities
  • providing industry expertise, insight and co-investment funding
  • connecting investors with exciting, qualified opportunities
  • helping our partners become more agile by building their internal capability to disrupt and fast-track innovation.

Further information

Josh Whelan
Manager, MDC Business Development
MLA Donor Company
M: 0407 733 047
Email Josh Whelan

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