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They Use Drones To Herd Cattle
Cattle in the Galilee Heights of Israel graze on rugged land with rocks, hills, and crevices that are difficult to navigate with anything other than horses. Ranchers Noam Azran and Dvir Cohen have found an additional method by pioneering the use of drones to herd their stock after testing the concept since 2014. “We experienced a 50 percent savings in labor costs, reduced our need for horses, and saved wear and tear on our vehicles,” the ranchers say. “More importantly, we’re spending more time with our families.”
Azran and Cohen developed a software app they’ve named “Joe” as a herding device after using a drone for several years to check fences and water troughs. The drone is successful because the ranchers say livestock don’t see a difference between a drone, a dog, a horse or a man on foot guiding them to new pasture.
“Cattle instinctively move away from all of those objects,” Azran says. “They respond to the drone’s movement and not the sound, although sometimes we’ve added the sound of a barking dog to the drone to make it more effective.”
Azran and Cohen point out that they named their product Joe after their favorite shepherd dog. Says Azran, “Joe displays all the characteristics of our very best herding pal. He’s intelligent, loyal, follows orders, and he’s fast.”
Azran and Cohen showed fellow ranchers a prototype of Joe and received a favorable response, so they moved the concept forward. A successful fundraising effort and a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority provided the seed money to develop Joe as an app to control drones. “We were cowboys, not IT specialists, and we soon learned that we needed an autonomous system if Joe was going to a commercial market,” Azran says.
Joe software controls a drone to observe or move cattle over large expanses of land with limited human intervention. The drone’s onboard cameras provide a live video stream to a mobile device so the operator/rancher knows what’s happening in real time. Cattle in the herd have GPS tags so the drone and app system can track movement. Azran says, “If there’s abnormal behavior in a herd like a predator or if they’re moving where they shouldn’t be, the rancher will be notified and the drone can be sent to track them.”
Azran and Cohen founded BeeFree Agro to produce the software, which operates with off-the-shelf drone hardware. A drone can fly up to 8 miles and move up to 1,000 head of cattle, but it won’t replace cowboys.
“Joe gives a rancher the capability of moving animals with fewer cowboys, horses and dogs. We’re not trying to disconnect the rancher from his land,” Cohen says.
Azran says a herd can typically be moved in 1 to 3 hrs., depending on the herd size and topography. After launching its system in Israel, BeeFree hopes to have 10 to 20 pilot systems running in other parts of the world in 2021, including several in Texas. They’ve also had interest from the Emirates, where camels cross roadways creating hazards for drivers. “With a few adjustments we think Joe can be used to herd camels, too,” Azran says.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Bee Free Agro, Zaha Industrial Zone, Rosh Pina 1200000, Israel (ph 011 972-4-6479099; www.beefreeagro.com; noam@beefreeagro.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #3