Digital Cities & Citizens

Cows live better with IoT

Caroline Wendt
January 17, 2022

Not only people in smart cities can benefit from sensors – the technology can also be of great importance for cows in a pasture in Veberöd’s outskirts. The company Smarta Byar has experimented with sensors that ring an alarm when the cows’ water trough is empty. This has also given insights into cow’s water drinking habits.

The reason for initiating the cow’s water trough project lies some years back in time and has to do with a Midsummer evening. Late at night, the owners of the cows got a call that the cows had escaped through the fence. The owner had to leave the midsummer party and hunt the fugitive cows on the field. It turned out that the cows had fled the pasture in search for water as the pump of the water trough broke down and left them thirsty.

The following year, Smarta Byar/Smart Villages had turned the cows' water trough into an IoT project within Future by Lund's Smart Public Environments (Smarta Offentliga Miljöer / SOM). Sensors were installed at different heights in the water trough to report whether there was water or not. Strangely, the alarm went off again exactly one year later at Midsummer's Eve. This time the pump had ran out of battery. An hour later the pump was running again and the defect was solved before the cows became too thirsty.

The project demonstrates what incredible benefits modern technology can bring - even in small communities. Without the sensors, it would have taken a long time to detect the defect and repair it which would have made the cows suffer even longer. It demonstrates that challenges in a small community may be different from those in a big city. That is why there are good reasons to be looking out for such opportunities.

Diagram 1

They continued to measure the water levels which provided the project participants with unexpected and surprising knowledge. The company Smarta Byar/Smart villages put the sensors on two levels. One is placed 5 cm below the surface of the water trough and one is 10 cm above its bottom. It turned out that a few hundred liters easily disappear when the cows come to drink. The green graph in diagram 1 shows that a lot of water is used which is quickly and automatically filled up by the water pump. Real alarms can also be seen in the diagram. They happen when the light blue line reaches 200 kPa. This means that the water level dropped below the position of lowest sensor and wasn’t filled up. Alarms are then sent via a notice in an app and the farmer receives a text message. Diagram 2 shows how many alarms happened during a week − in this case two. An insightful and thirst-quenching statistic!

The cows' water trough was included as a sub-project in Future by Lund's project Smart Public Environments (SOM), which is part of the Strategic Innovation Program for the Internet of Things, IoT Sweden, and which was funded by Vinnova. For the project, Smarta Byar and Future by Lund worked with Sensefarm, Sensative and the cows' owner Anna Kristoffersson. The project started on September 1, 2017 and lasted until December 2020.

Diagram 2


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