This smartphone app lets farmers control where their cows graze from afar

When left alone, livestock will often cluster in certain areas of a field while leaving other regions alone. That causes some sections to be overeaten, which makes the grass and soil there less healthy over time. The neglected areas—left to overgrow and develop weeds, and without the benefits of being fertilized—also suffer. And unhealthy grass hurts a farmer’s bottom line. For decades, farmers have combated this problem using a method called rotational grazing. Generally, that entails building several fenced-in paddocks between which they can alternate their livestock, giving the grass in each area time to grow back before it’s eaten again. A San Diego-based startup by the name of Vence thinks we can do much better in this day and age. That’s why Vence created a device with accompanying software that lets farmers control their animals’ behavior remotely. In the first rounds of testing, the technology has worked like a charm—guiding the cows to the precise bits of grass that need to be eaten by emitting a small buzzing noise from a collar. If the cow goes too far, it gets a little shock. Animal lovers will probably not be keen on the idea of zapping animals, but Vence claims the cows learn rather quickly to respect the buzzing noise. The technology is set to launch in April, and when it does, it could have huge implications for agriculture—and the planet.

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This smartphone app lets farmers control where their cows graze from afar

When left alone, livestock will often cluster in certain areas of a field while leaving other regions alone. That causes some sections to be overeaten, which makes the grass and soil there less healthy over time. The neglected areas—left to overgrow and develop weeds, and without the benefits of being fertilized—also suffer. And unhealthy grass hurts a farmer’s bottom line. For decades, farmers have combated this problem using a method called rotational grazing. Generally, that entails building several fenced-in paddocks between which they can alternate their livestock, giving the grass in each area time to grow back before it’s eaten again. A San Diego-based startup by the name of Vence thinks we can do much better in this day and age. That’s why Vence created a device with accompanying software that lets farmers control their animals’ behavior remotely. In the first rounds of testing, the technology has worked like a charm—guiding the cows to the precise bits of grass that need to be eaten by emitting a small buzzing noise from a collar. If the cow goes too far, it gets a little shock. Animal lovers will probably not be keen on the idea of zapping animals, but Vence claims the cows learn rather quickly to respect the buzzing noise. The technology is set to launch in April, and when it does, it could have huge implications for agriculture—and the planet.

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