Dr. John Church, British Columbia’s regional innovation chair in cattle industry sustainability, has partnered with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Golden BC’s Kingsclere Ranch on a project that implements drones for precision ranching.
Church is the lead researcher on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council College-University Idea to Innovation grant.
According to a news release from BC-based Thompson Rivers University (TRU), the three-year grant of $663,940, combined with cash and in-kind contributions from partners, values the research project at nearly $1.1 million. The project will provide ranchers with new ways of managing their assets, which include both cattle and rangeland.
“This project is unique in that it allows for better management of all ranch assets. Past management techniques have been more of an art rather than a science, and we hope to change that,” explains Church.
Dr. David Hill, an associate professor of geography at TRU, is using a drone to create large aerial photo maps that producers can use to make land-management decisions.
Church adds, “The drones give ranchers the ability to extend their vision, and the radio frequency identification (RFID) technology will give them the ability to see exactly which cattle they’re looking at.”
All cattle are tagged – a cost ranchers must bear – but the technology hasn’t provided much practical benefit until now, according to TRU.
“TRU’s thermal-imaging expertise, combined with SAIT’s successful RFID animal-tracking research and prototyping, helps to further enhance the high standards of the livestock industry in maintaining food chain safety,” says Glen Kathler, applied research chair at the RFID research lab at SAIT.