Flocks of sheep wearing fitness devices similar to Fitbits are not an unusual sight on Belinda Lay’s farm, where an innovative trial is under way.
The Esperance farmer was awarded a $10,000 bursary as the winner of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award last night to further her research.
Ms Lay, who has farmed for the past 12 years, will use the $10,000 to progress her sheep-monitoring project, which started this year.
She recently imported 100 specially designed collars from Spain to monitor big data, which she says helps improve her animal’s welfare.
The sheep collars track data such as the animal’s heart rate, temperature and GPS location.
When an animal shows unusual statistics, particularly during lambing, Ms Lay will be notified via mobile phone and can pinpoint its location, to go and help it.
Mrs Lay said the device allowed her to track the habits of sheep and ensure their environment met their preferences and needs.
“The problem has always been the mortality rates in livestock and the affect on profitability,” she said.
“The solution of monitoring sheep with Fitbits has only come about with the internet of things.”
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said Ms Lay’s project was a perfect example of farmer-driven innovation.
“Belinda’s project shows the innovation that our farmers are driving in regional WA … applying new technologies to produce better outcomes for both productivity and animal welfare,” she said.
“This recognition celebrates and empowers Belinda as one of WA’s brightest, most innovative women involved in agriculture.
“It’s important to celebrate the social, economic and community achievements of women, and the Rural Women’s Award provides a unique opportunity to promote women in leadership positions and build their capacity.”
The idea echoes new smart ear tags unveiled by the CSIRO and ag-tech start-up Ceres Tag last month that produce similar data to that delivered by consumer smart watches.
As well as the $10,000 bursary, Ms Lay will be given access to alumni networks and professional development opportunities, including Curtin University’s Ignition program.
She will also be a candidate for the national 2019 Rural Women’s Award in October.
The AgriFutures WA Rural Women’s Award acknowledges and supports the vital role women play in rural industries, businesses and communities.
Ms Lay was selected from four finalists, Kambalda-based information technology service provider Leah Boucher, Geraldton lupin grower Tanya Kitto and Denmark economist Juliet Grist.
She follows in the footsteps of last year’s national Rural Women’s Award runner-up and WA award winner Darrylin Gordon, of Halls Creek, who focused on developing a holistic on-station community training program for land management and cattle production.