Pigs in trace — IoT research partnership formed

CCIWA member Xsights Digital is part of a $1.2 million partnership to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) tags and machine learning as part of new research into animal health and welfare in commercial piggeries.

The partnership between Xsights, Food Agility CRC, Curtin University, pork producers Craig Mostyn & Co and other groups will also investigate the value of sharing the information throughout the supply chain.

Food Agility AI and Robotics Pillar Lead, Ashley Rootsey, said the three-year project is drawing on experts from the State’s pig industry, technology, and supply chain systems.

“It’s hoped this research will provide pig producers with a tool to monitor animal health in real-time, allowing for earlier intervention to further enhance welfare, productivity and profitability,” he said.

“It will also examine how the technology could be applied throughout the supply chain.”

The project will use data from Xsights’ IoT Tags (XIoT), a ‘wafer’ that can be retrofitted to a standard button ear tag, to report temperature, movement, and location of pigs in real time.

The research will unlock the value of this data by correlating it with biological measures from pigs in a commercial setting and use machine learning to develop a model to predict health and welfare outcomes of pigs, alerting producers to pig health status in real time.

The project will also create a digital record of pigs’ history to demonstrate animal welfare provenance to customers and consumers.

“We know that the responsible and best-practice management of animals on-farm is an important quality to more than just farmers,” Rootsey said; “so while the technical streams of this project are working to build tools to help further optimise animal health and welfare, we have a research workstream set up to explore how other supply chain members may respond to this new practice.

“We want to evaluate the possible value that is obtained along all stages in the chain, right through to consumers, and so the research will look to list and quantify what and where new value may be gained.”

Food Agility CRC AI and Robotics Pillar Lead Ashley Rootsey

The partners anticipate possible forms of value may include things like increased consumer preference/willingness to pay, market access, stronger brand reputation, positioning in supermarkets, etc.

Rootsey said that in the first instance, pigs had been chosen both due to the proactivity of Craig Mostyn in that company’s role as an active industry partner, as well as the slightly more controlled and protected environments for the technical infrastructure used in the project relative to sheep or cattle.

“Following a successful proof of concept in pigs via this project, we certainly see great opportunity to expand and scale into these other livestock types,” he added.

Xsights CMO Dean Phillips said the company’s ‘Sensing as a Service’ model would enable users to scale with no upfront CAPEX cost, while providing a number of new and automated real-time location data sets to drive operational efficiencies.

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