Cranfield University is the academic lead for wearable tech for livestock project

Bacterial infection can be passed onto humans

Cranfield University is the academic lead for a UK-China project to monitor the health of livestock, particularly dairy cows.

Funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and administered by Innovate UK, the project is a collaboration with Scottish companies Biotangents and IceRobotics.

The aim is to identify the disease brucellosis at an earlier stage.

The data generated by the sensors will provide a shortlist of suspected cases of the disease. A portable diagnostic test will then give a rapid confirmatory diagnosis of the suspected cases.

The Chinese consortium includes Shanghai Veterinary Research Institute and Nanjing Agricultural University, and is funded by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

‘Fitbit’ for cows will track their health

IceRobotics’ non-invasive livestock wearable sensors track daily activities 24/7. Vets will be able to monitor any changes in behaviour. These could be early indicators for illness. The data will enable the vets to shortlist livestock at an early stage.

Biotangents is developing the portable diagnostic test. This will check samples from the shortlisted animals and confirm if the disease is present.

IceRobotics with Dr Jerry Luo, a lecturer in Energy Storage and Harvesting at Cranfield University, will develop the data analysis for brucellosis. Dr Jerry Luo is an expert in wearables and data mining. He said:

“The advanced data processing algorithm we’re developing will enable us to track individual cow health more accurately and report illness at a very early stage.

“Early intervention could prevent the disease spreading, so this really will be a vital tool for vets and livestock owners.”

Biotangents with Dr Iva Chianella, lecturer in Advanced Functional Polymers at Cranfield University, will create a diagnostic test. Dr Iva Chianella, an expert on biosensors technology, said:

“After animals with behavioural patterns that may indicate infection have been spotted by the IceRobotics wearable sensors, their milk/serum will be analysed in-field using the Biotangents diagnostic device – obtaining an accurate diagnosis within two hours .

“This will permit quick identification of infected animals and therefore a prompt intervention, which will limit spread of the infection to other animals and humans (preventing outbreaks), with a positive impact on economic development and population health.”

Biotangents vet hub + cartridge_08Apr20 Image supplied by Cranfield University

Swift interventions could prevent disease spreading

Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects livestock, but can also be passed onto humans. Infected cows have abnormal pregnancies and lose their calves. As there is no effective cure, the affected animals must be slaughtered.

The current regulations require all cattle that have had contact with infected animals to be slaughtered. 

The ambition for the project is to detect this infection earlier and allow swift interventions to control the spread of the disease and minimise the risk of transmission to humans.

The three-year project will conclude in 2022 and received £687,673 via Innovate UK from the Department of Health and Social Care.