Virginia Tech uses new technology to study animal behavior

Published: Jul. 2, 2019 at 10:17 PM EDT
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Researchers at Virginia Tech have been busy this summer testing new technology to help them better understand animal behavior, and how to care for animals.

Virginia Tech’s SmartFarm Innovation Network is using technology on the harness and leg to better understand how to take care of them.

Reggie is one of the horses who gets to be part of the experiment.

“What we’re doing with those two is trying to geolocate where Reggie is in a pasture and what he’s doing at the time where we kind of have his location pin-pointed," said Robin White, an assistant professor of integrated beef productions. “If it’s out in the pasture and it stops moving around or its stride length dramatically changes, we should be able to know that something is wrong with the way the animal is moving and we can respond more quickly.”

As soon as the battery is powered on Reggie's harness, it'll begin transmitting information on where he is and how he's doing.

Researchers at Virginia Tech said they're studying animal behavior now because they project a 70 percent increase in animal products as the population continues to grow.

“This allows us to understand how we can utilize that resource to create food that we can consume in a way that is optimizing our environmental stewardship," White said.

They plan to test in four month cycles, and they'll work to upgrade the sensors as needed.

“This type of assessment can allow us to understand how we can utilize our pasture systems which are an incredibly important source for food production because we can’t get food from them otherwise because humans can't eat grass," White said.

Right now the devices are used in the university's SmartFarm Innovation Network, but the hope is to one day soon connect the devices to farmers across the Commonwealth.