How do you prevent a minor livestock disease outbreak from becoming a full-scale epidemic? New tracking software from a Guelph-based company may hold the answer.
Containing the next Avian Influenza (bird flu) or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus means stopping potential carriers from spreading it from one farm to the next. But tracking the comings and goings of every visitor can be a nightmare. Even if visitor record books are used, they don’t always get filled in. And when you’re up against the clock, manually gathering, inputting and analyzing tens of thousands of records from hundreds of farms can result in deadly delays.
Compare that to Farm Health Guardian’s system. Using GPS coordinates, the biosecurity firm can erect virtual “geofences” around any farm, feedlot or other agricultural premise. Once that’s up, anyone with the free Farm Health Guardian app on their smartphone will trigger a signal the moment they enter the vicinity of a geofenced property, automatically logging their visit. Otherwise the app remains inactive — a key feature for users with privacy concerns.
“When there’s a disease outbreak, we can basically hit a button and have it automatically show us where the people who’ve been on the potentially infectious farm came from and where they went,” says Farm Health Guardian President and CEO Tim Nelson.
The possibilities go beyond disease control. Got a vet coming by while you’re in the backfield? Have the system shoot you a text when she’s arrived. Expecting a late-night delivery of feed? Set it up so your gate unlocks when the supplier gets close.
To help bring the venture to life, Nelson turned to Bioenterprise. For starters, the agri-business accelerator helped Farm Health Guardian secure a grant to get the software up and running. “Without that I would have really been struggling,” says Nelson.
With the results of their pilot phase in hand, the next big step will be getting the word out and industry on board. Bioenterprise is working with them on that front as well, helping develop a rock-solid business plan, creating a promotional video and making introductions to potential investors and strategic partners.
With any new technology, getting widespread buy-in will take time. But Nelson only has to look to devastating impacts of the recent outbreak of the PED virus to know how valuable their system will be in getting ahead of diseases. “We could have saved millions of piglets,” he says. “It’s a very, very powerful tool.”