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The Next Big Thing in Agriculture: Smart Collars for Cows

By Mike Cherney / April 3, 2018

From The Wall Street Journal


When you think of a technology startups the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't a herd of cattle...


Fencing property and maintaining it over vast distances can be expensive and time-consuming, but it's a requirement in the farming industry.  Enter: Virtual Fencing. 


Virtual fencing is a use of technology with many implications for this business. The advantages are that it would be easier to track and round up livestock, and could add additional control to pasturing, eventually making fences obsolete; but the technology has some challenges. For one, the collars cost about $155 each and the return on investment could take up to two years to see.


The technology works by training cattle over 24 to 48 hours. If the animal walks near a virtual fence, it hears a sound and then gets a shock if it continues. The goal is for the cattle to associate the sound with the shock, avoid the shock and remain corralled within the virtual fence. The collars relay the cattle's location to a base station connected to the Internet. 



1. What are the benefits of virtual fencing?

2. Why might virtual fences have some animal rights activists concerned?

3. What technology challenges do virtual fences pose?