Putting the pieces together
‘Be Seen, Be Safe’ has been rolled out in Ontario over the winter, with the involvement of over 800 geo-fenced farms and over 1,200 people and vehicles. Every producer belonging to Egg Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg & Chick Commission and the Turkey Farmers of Ontario are taking part. These associations have paid the first 2 years’ nominal cost for each farm for initial geo-fencing and monitoring, with 75% of that cost being reimbursed by a Canadian government grant. Nelson says support for the system has been overwhelming in Ontario, with everyone understanding that BSBS is no more intrusive than what came before (physically signing a farm visitor log book). The BSBS app is available on all 3 main smartphone platforms: BlackBerry, Android and IOS. It causes no battery drain and involves very minimal internet usage as it only runs for a split-second when device carrying the app crosses a geo-fenced property.
Prairie Swine Centre (Canada) president and CEO Lee Whittington says BSBS fits well with the psychology of biosecurity of the pork industry. “It’s one more line of defense, and helps to take the cumbersomeness out of a biosecurity system,” he observes. “The tedious manual log book system is often inaccurate and there is an immediate benefit for the producer in that BSBS provides a permanent, accurate record of who visited the farm.” Whittington also sees another benefit in the system, relating to the fact that farm ownership in Canada and other places has changed. “It used to be that the family farm was one farm entered through one gate,” he says, “but now farms have multiple sites and it’s much harder to keep an eye on things.”
Whittington believes this type of technology represents what’s happening in other segments of society and industry sectors. “Geofencing existed, but Tim put the pieces together,” he notes. “Everyone has smartphones now and this system uses them but protects overall privacy. The mentality today is ‘I want the data immediately and at little or no cost,’ and ‘Be Seen, Be Safe’ fits with that.”
Farm Health Monitor - early warning system for outbreaks
A dairy version of another system called ‘Farm Health Monitor’ (FHM) is currently under development by Nelson and Sotomayor. FHM enables farmers and veterinarians in a given area to better contain and manage production-limiting diseases. Like BSBS, FHM also involves a secure smartphone app where farmers and vets can input information on disease symptoms and/or animal deaths. If similar information is reported on 2 or more farms, FHM sends out a blanket warning across the region, prompting producers and vets to check herds or flocks carefully and to report as necessary. Nelson calls it “a true early warning system.” The poultry FHM app is being trialed right now, with the swine version ready for trial. The ability to upload images and a short video is being added.