New ear tags could be future of ag industry

Engineer David Smith developed the Ceres Tag system to help farmers manage livestock and is now looking for investors to get behind the product.
Engineer David Smith developed the Ceres Tag system to help farmers manage livestock and is now looking for investors to get behind the product. Contributed

DAVID Smith grew up on the land and, despite heading to the big smoke to become an engineer, he never forgot his roots.

He married a woman who also came from the land, and it was a visit to her parents' property in the South Burnett that led to a lightbulb moment that could improve life for graziers across the globe.

"I used to be in the energy industry and I left that industry a few years ago and wanted to get back to my roots,” Mr Smith said.

"I grew up on a property in the Hunter Valley and I met my wife in central Queensland.

"Her family are cattle farmers in the South Burnett.

"We went to visit and I said to my father-in-law that I knew the sector pretty well but things hadn't changed much, and I saw an opportunity to improve the way we do things.”

He said his first thought was looking into how drones could help primary producers, but soon realised that part of the ag sector was coming along nicely.

He turned his attention to geofencing and making the humble ear tag do so much more.

Mr Smith presented his ideas in Toowoomba at the recent 400M Agtech Investment Forum and said there was plenty of interest in the concept of Ceres Tag, which he named after the Roman goddess of agriculture.

He said stage one of the project was to create solar-powered ear tags that provided geo location, health management, performance measurement and early warning notification of biosecurity and livestock breakout.

The CSIRO jumped on board as development partners for stage one and Mr Smith said stage two of the development, which would include virtual fencing, was a candidate for Meat and Livestock Australia support.

"If I run through the list of things I need to know about my cattle, the first thing is where the animals are,” Mr Smith said.

"You've got to look for them before you can muster them.

"Also, if my cows are leaving the property boundary, where are they doing it and where are they located now?

"The initial core product is around geo location to find the animals, but also things like temperature monitoring for biosecurity and early detection of illness.

"To be honest, if something like mad cow disease was to enter the country, there isn't much around to give early detection and it could easily wipe out a big portion of the industry.”

He said that side of things would be particularly valuable to feedlots, where early detection of illness was vital.

The entire project was being designed to work in with existing software so farmers wouldn't have to upgrade their computer systems to use the technology.

He estimated the tags would cost about $25 each when the technology was fully developed and brought to market.

To find out more about the technology or keep up with its development, visit

Topics:  livestock