Durability of Sensors Key in Tracking Biosecurity and and Animal Welfare Parameters

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Farmscape for June 7, 2021

Full Interview 14:53 Listen

A professor with the University of Saskatchewan reports progress in the development of the sensors that can be used to track the conditions within swine transport vehicles that affect biosecurity and animal welfare. As part of a Swine Innovation Porc project, in which scientists are working to automate the washing and disinfection of swine transport trailers, the University of Saskatchewan is overseeing the durability testing of the sensors being used to track such factors as temperature and humidity within the trailer, vibration and other biosecurity and animal welfare parameters. Dr. Terry Fonstad, the Associate Dean Research with the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Engineering, says these sensors, which are being developed by Transport Genie out of Guelph, Ontario, need to be particularly resilient.

Clip-Dr. Terry Fonstad-University of Saskatchewan:
The sensor manufacturers aren’t really always aware of how destructive a pig can be.
Of course, if you’re going to put a sensor down low in a trailer along a wall, it better be protected because pigs are bored, they’ll start eating away at it and so they’ve got to be pretty durable. They’ve got to be able to take pressure washing, they’ve got to be able to take chemicals, they’ve got to be able to take vibrations of going over railway tracks and going down the road and all of those kinds of things.
Then you’ve got a sensor that you want to measure surface temperature maybe down low on a wall but you also want to measure the temperature and humidity, which might be the worst in the head space above the animals.

We can sense all that stuff. It’s pretty easy but getting the sensors to do that in a transport trailer that’s vibrating down the road and it could be running from minus 40 outside if it’s an empty trailer and then be over 100 degrees Celsius in a baking system and then you can’t have sensors that cost a lot. We’re on generation five and I think the latest generation has really got some good promise and there’s probably going to be continuous development on it. It’s the same common problem that we have in automated mining and automated agriculture, is that’s sensing, communications, analytics and controls.

Dr. Fonstad notes, in addition to being durable, the sensors have to be able to transmit where they are in the trailer and all of the data has to go to where to where it can be protected and accessed by the people who need it.

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