New tech to improve welfare in Australian live export industry

Staff reporterCountryman
Australian live exporters will soon be using automated sensors to monitor environmental conditions on ships.
Camera IconAustralian live exporters will soon be using automated sensors to monitor environmental conditions on ships. Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Australian live exporters will soon be using automated sensors to monitor environmental conditions on ships after the successful trial of a new technology developed in Norway.

The technology — which aims to improve animal welfare and connectivity— uses a series of nodes to automatically collect and transfer data from sensors throughout the vessel.

The data is then sent to a central computer on the bridge, in real time, via low-energy radio mesh technology integrated with Bluetooth.

Australian research body LiveCorp tested the equipment on voyages to Darwin and Singapore last year.

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Chief executive Wayne Collier said improved connectivity was key to the industry’s continuing digital transformation.

“Industry, the regulator and the community are all interested in automated and independent monitoring of things like temperature and humidity on livestock export ships,” he said.

“Being able to aggregate the data and review it in real time makes it possible to set up alerts when certain conditions — like increasing temperatures — are met, so the situation can be managed before it becomes an issue.”

Effective wireless transmission of data is challenging aboard vessels due to the amount of steel, particularly on livestock decks, according to LiveCorp.

With limitations on installing electrical wiring, batteries are often required and devices must be able to withstand livestock and biosecurity washdowns after every voyage.

“Some ship owners and exporters are using automated loggers to collect information such as temperature and humidity; however, someone currently needs to walk around each deck to get a strong enough signal to download the data to a handheld device,” Mr Collier said.

“This is not only time-intensive, taking people away from their main role of caring for the livestock, but prevents real-time decision-making.”

Mr Collier said during trials data was successfully made available to the ship’s Captain and, when satellite connectivity allowed, uploaded simultaneously to the cloud for review by a land-based project team.

But he said the transmission of data to the cloud from a ship at sea remained a challenge.

“We’re aiming to run further tests of this system and potentially some of the others we shortlisted, to see how they operate in more complex environments and with larger packets of data — perhaps even video,” he said.

“This trial has shown that technology is increasingly enabling new approaches to monitoring within the industry and increasing transparency around what happens on the ships.”

Norway-based Scandinavian Reach Technologies developed the technology specifically for use in marine environments such as ships and oil rigs.

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