Tuesday, March 14, 2006

PDAs on the Farm


The other day I put on my farm clothes, and headed off to a calf raising farm. Why? I wanted to see handheld computers in action. Farming is not done the same way as it was when I was a young dairyman. Now days as a result of "Mad Cow and Hoof-and-Mouth" diseases large buyers of meat (grocery stores, Japan, Europe many more...) want a meat seller to be able to track exactly where a steak originated, and they want it in 48 hours.

Just last week a cow in Alabama was found to have Mad Cow, and officials were not able to track the cow's origins beyond the auction yard. This is a big problem. There may be other exposed cows, but no one can tell. So healthy cows and clean farms all fall under suspicion. This becomes not just farmer's problem, but an industry's.

We are very involved in developing solutions for the cattle industry here at MobileDataforce. Our software enables a handheld computer with attached RFID readers to immediately and uniquely identify a calf with an RFID ear tag. So any movement of the calf from one pen to another, or from one farm to another can easily be tracked by reading the passing ear tags as the animals are moved or loaded onto a truck.

In addition, any health issues that the calf experiences as it grows can be identified by reading the RFID ear tag, and identifying the health problem and any treatments associated with that animal. This information stays with the calf through life and death.

So in effect - this solution is a "chain-of-custody" for animals. It tracks their movement, any associated farms, health issues and other animals that they have been in contact with them and the data is stored for "track-back" in the event of a disease outbreak.

This is a very interesting application of mobility. It is also an application with global health significance.