By Bernard Tobin
Satellites and smart phones are poised to deliver a new level of biosecurity that could keep farmers one step ahead of disease.
As Canadian pork producers struggle to contain the spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) on their farms, a new company, Be Seen Be Safe, is rolling out a satellite-based biosecurity system that could significantly improve the livestock industry’s chances of containing a disease like PEDv, where mortality rates can reach up to 100 percent in suckling pigs. PEDv has killed an estimated four million piglets in the US and infected 29 Ontario farms since the first case was confirmed less than two months.
Be Seen Be Safe President and CEO Tim Nelson explains the Guelph-based company’s new biosecurity system uses GPS satellites to erect a ‘geofence’ around a farm property. When installed, profiles of suppliers, service providers and visitors are entered into the system, including the type of business, cell phone number and email.
Once a vehicle crosses the fence the vehicle is logged and the driver’s phone receives a text message indicating they have entered the farm zone. Nelson says the system acts as a virtual log book, similar to the paper version used in current biosecurity systems. In the event of a disease outbreak, health officials can quickly alert high-risk service providers and suppliers who travel to other farms to help contain the transmission of the disease.
At the recent Ontario Agri-Food Technologies annual meeting in Guelph, Nelson explained that the goal is to “get in front of a disease and look at who, what and where did it come from” and trace the movement of potential disease carriers. Nelson explained that when a disease like PEDv is detected, Be Seen Be Safe info can be collated and analyzed the same day and high-risk service providers can be immediately notified and containment measures can be put in place. This process can take days when farmers are relying on a traditional paper log book.
In the case of a disease outbreak, the system would also enable the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to erect a five- or 10-kilometre exclusionary zone around the infected property. Industry suppliers who are on the system would then receive a message when passing through the zone warning them of disease presence and provide a 1 800 number they can call for more information.
Nelson explained that the geofence is set up remotely through a server so no internet service or WiFi is needed on-farm and there are no maintenance requirements. He noted that the system only tracks movement in and out of the predefined geofenced zones, so privacy is assured away from the fenced areas.
The Be Seen Be Safe system is currently being piloted and tested on 100 farms in southwestern Ontario. Nelson says the 30-day pilot is designed to demonstrate the power of the system. “We want to get real data to show the priority and speed of the system.”
According to Nelson, once the system is installed on the farm it will have an immediate impact on biosecurity. “If we can get rid of the visitor log book we’ll be well ahead,” he says. The system will become increasingly effective as it achieves critical mass in terms of the number of participating farms, service providers and suppliers.
Cost should not be a barrier. A facility can be added to the system for $100 in the first year, which includes data management. In year two, the price drops to $50 per facility. Nelson noted that a key success factor is to have as many service providers as possible sign on to the system so there is no charge for service provider sign-up.
When asked about liability implications, Nelson says the Be Seen Be Safe system is no different from a visitor record book from a liability perspective.
Nelson also noted that the Be Seen Be Safe system will have multiple on-farm uses and can do much more than power a biosecurity system. It could be used for manifest management to track the transport of grains and livestock; it could help manage remote properties, triggering lights and closing gates; and also serve as a security system – whenever a farm tractor, for example, passed through the fence, a farmer would receive a text message.
More information is available at beseenbesafe.ca