Virtual fencing for cattle is set to hit the commercial market later in 2017, following a successful $2 million fundraising round by Melbourne-based agri-tech company Agersens.

Agersens’ eShepherd product enables farmers to ‘fence’, move, muster, and monitor their livestock remotely via smart phone, and builds on patented technology originally developed by the CSIRO.

With eShepherd, farmers create a virtual fence on an app that communicates with a collar worn by each animal. Animals are trained to respond to prompts provided by the collar, which can also collect data to help farmers improve animal health and make better farm management decisions.

The Managing Director of Agersens, Ian Reilly, said there was a global market for the Australian innovation, with demand from cattle and dairy farmers in Australia, NZ, the USA, South America, Europe, and South Africa.

“eShepherd will transform the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of global livestock farming by automating rotational or cell grazing, avoiding overgrazing while improving animal health and welfare. eShepherd will improve profitability by cutting labour, fencing and other input costs,” he said.

“It has impact at a number of levels – not only does it help farmers and livestock, but it can be used as flood and fireproof fencing to prevent cattle pollution of waterways and national parks while avoiding injury to wildlife associated with conventional fencing.”

This internet-of-things GPS based animal wearable device will be the first of its kind to be deployed on farms anywhere in the world – a disruptive technology that generates a win-win for agriculture and the value of precious land and water resources.

Investors in the raising include international agricultural innovation powerhouse Gallagher, which has taken a strategic stake, as well as sophisticated and experienced agri-tech investors who recognise the opportunity afforded by the disruptive nature of the technology. The capital raising was led by Bell Potter Securities and supported by Chatsworth Associates.

Government is taking virtual fencing seriously, with the Federal Government granting Agersens $640,000 to accelerate commercialisation, and Dairy Australia awarded $2.6 million to lead a four-year industry testing program. Victorian and NSW Government based Catchment Management Authorities and Local Land Services are providing funding support for trials on rivers and wetlands. Agersens has an ongoing working relationship with CSIRO, continuing development to help access new geographical and livestock markets.

This story was first published in Leading Agriculture magazine.