Globalstar: IoT satellite technology for tracking livestock

Globalstar's IoT technology powers the FindMySheep system
Globalstar’s IoT technology powers the FindMySheep system.

Keeping track of valuable livestock grazing in remote areas is a daily challenge for farmers, but using technology powered by Globalstar, farmers can obtain regular updates on where their animals are at any time.

Losing livestock to predators or through illness during the grazing season not only affects that year’s revenue, but can also have a profound impact on the quality of the stock’s breeding foundation for years to come. Tracking using satellite-based internet-of-things (IoT) solutions can track herds and flocks to address these issues in a cost-effective way.

Norwegian sheep farmer Halvor Mjoen knows this only too well. His family lost 22 per cent of its sheep herd to predators during the 2009 mountain grazing season. Determined to find a solution to the problem of how to better track and safeguard his family’s flock in the mountains, where there’s no cellular coverage, Mr Mjoen hit upon the idea of a satellite-based collar that acts as a virtual shepherd, alerting the farmer to potential problems. The result was the establishment of Findmy AS – and the start of a close partnership with Globalstar.

The FindMySheep collars are activated and set-up online via a web portal
The Findmy collars are activated and set-up online via a web portal.

Findmy’s FindMySheep tracking collar is based on Globalstar’s reliable, low-cost STX-3 IoT Modem that sends one-way, packet-switched data automatically on a time or event-driven basis via Globalstar’s second-generation mobile satellite network. After conducting a number of successful, large-scale field trials in Norway, Findmy started marketing the collars commercially in time for Norway’s 2013 grazing season. The Globalstar value-added reseller sold 3,500 collars to Norwegian farmers in its first season, and today it has 40,000 active units.

The sealed collars have been built to be robust, light and waterproof. As well as the STX-3 module, they feature a long-lasting lithium ion battery that can be recharged using an inductive charging system.

Farmers activate the collars in a similar way as with a SIM card, and once activated they can be set up, via a web portal, to send a pre-set number of messages per day via Globalstar’s network. For example, at the start of the season, this might be set to one message per day; while at the end of the grazing season, when the sheep are being herded back down the mountain, a higher frequency of messages can be scheduled.

FindMySheep has more than 35,000 collars in use to monitor the position of livestock
Norwegian company Findmy has more than 35,000 collars in use to monitor the position of livestock.

The data collected shows the time-stamped latitude and longitude of each sheep and the remaining battery life of the unit. It’s also possible to view an animated video that shows where each sheep has moved on a map.

The Findmy system can be used to detect abnormal behaviour. For example, it can be set up to alert the farmer if a sheep has moved more than the average 5.0km/day – which might signal that the flock has been scared off by a predator or is struggling to find grass. Someone can then be dispatched to check on the sheep.

Farmers and herd managers can also be alerted when an animal hasn’t moved for some time. The GPS data identifies exactly where to go to investigate, saving valuable time and resources. Farmers deploying the collars report a significant reduction in animal loss, with a consequent direct positive impact on their business.

Over time, the system will provide a data trail that can be used to determine the optimum grazing areas for the future.

The system can also be used to geo-fence livestock – defining the area in which they want their livestock to graze. An SMS message is sent alerting the farmer to any animals that are close to the edge of this area or that have managed to escape. This functionality is used by reindeer farmers in Norway to keep their stock away from railway lines.