More than R1 billion was lost to the South African agricultural economy in 2018 thanks to livestock theft. According to a study released by UNISA, there were more than 29, 000 cases reported over the last financial year, with thousands of animals stolen. These thefts weigh heavily on the pockets of farmers and put them under immense pressure to find sustainable solutions that don’t bypass the law but do protect their property and their livelihoods. Into this complex quagmire of loss, livelihood and legal ramification steps agri-tech, the trending term for technology designed specifically for the agricultural sector and its unique challenges. Agri-tech has the potential to mitigate the loss of livestock, to reduce financial pressure on the agricultural industry and to minimise the burdens of distance and real-time responses to livestock threats.
FarmRanger, a clever blend of technology and agricultural devices, delivers an elegantly layered platform for livestock management and security. FarmRanger uses a combination of animal collar and app. The collars are fitted to a select number of animals in the herd – for sheep it is approximately one animal per 300 – and constantly monitor the movement of the sheep and, by extension, the herd. When any abnormal movement is detected, the system alerts the relevant person, for example the foreman, the farmer or the neighbourhood watch, by sending them a ‘missed call’ from the collar as well as an app notification. They then use the app to track the animal in real-time, following the detailed information on the app to find the animal’s location and effectively prevent it from being killed or stolen.
“The rising trend of stock theft makes it essential for farmers to use technology so they can stay one step ahead,” says Marius van der Merwe, Product Manager of FarmRanger. “However, the solutions need to be simple and reliable, providing farmers with valuable insight when it is needed the most. FarmRanger is designed to be functional and effective, delivering the right information to farmers so they can mitigate the impact of stock theft on their businesses.”
In addition to providing the farmer with relevant alarms and information, the app shows daily location updates, historical animal positions, and collar data, such as battery level. Working alongside the collar, the app is a simple and effective solution designed to fit into the farmer’s life, not make it more complicated. FarmRanger uses high-end technology – smartphones, GPS, electronic collars, real-time data and application delivery – to provide farmers with a hands-on and reliable tool that anyone can pick up and use without a hefty learning curve. Farmers generally embrace technology when it adds value to their operation; ultimately, they want to focus on the business of farming, so the supporting technology needs to be effective and easy to integrate.
Agri-tech solutions offer farmers an extra layer of insurance; however, they also need to add value. This is what FarmRanger does. The platform minimises the impact of stock theft while also providing customer service, a track record that spans more than 20 years, and technology that works within existing infrastructure limitations. The collars work on the mobile phone network and don’t require that the farms then install radio networks and battery life is up to six months on a rechargeable battery.
The solution comes from the ETSE Electronics stable which forms part of the Alphawave group. It has successfully introduced more than 4500 active units to 2000 farms across South Africa and Namibia and is tailored to suit the needs of the medium and large farming enterprises. It gives them the security and peace of mind they need to lock in their livestock, ensure their livelihoods and track their herds. Implementation of the solution is growing steadily, cementing FarmRanger’s reputation and reliability.
“It is a trusted 24/7 shepherd that now forms an integral part of the agri-sector repertoire and, as such, is continuously undergoing innovation and development to ensure it remains relevant and on the edge of what agri-tech can offer,” concludes Marnus van Wyk, Director of the Alphawave Group responsible for growing the agri-tech product portfolio.