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Aussie farmers using AR to spot sheep diseases

Primary Industries

Farmers are flocking to download a new mobile app that uses augmented reality to show them how to detect exotic diseases in sheep.

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The Sheep Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) AR app is an educational tool for primary producers developed in a collaboration between  Animal Health Australia and the South Australian government’s Red Meat and Wool Growth Program.

Produced by technology company, Think Digital, the app generates a digital flock of sheep in a user’s real-world location. The user is then asked which sheep show signs of illness.

Once a user has picked out the symptomatic sheep, they are asked to identify what is unusual with the sheep.

For example, if they are detecting foot and mouth, the sheep may have a lesion on its foot or in its mouth.

The app then asks the farmer to guess the disease. Four animal diseases currently not found in SA are included on the app, including bluetongue, foot and mouth disease, scrapie and sheep pox.

While these diseases are yet to reach South Australia, Emily Mellor, the Department of Primary Industries and Regions Red Meat and Wool Growth Program manager said this app will better prepare farmers if they do.

“It’s very hard for a producer to recognise the signs of a disease that they have never seen before,” Mellor said.

“What we’ve developed allows them to interact with that digital flock of sheep as they would a normal flock.

“They can walk around the digital sheep, check inside their mouth and look underneath them and interact with the sheep to identify what the signs of the exotic diseases are and then have a go at guessing what the disease is.”

Think Digital Chief Executive Kat Bidstrup said that traditionally this education might be done at field days or through brochures.

“Diseases like foot and mouth might seem really obvious if you had them in your flock but they aren’t, so we are trying to show that it might not be that dramatic,” Bidstrup said.

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, Think Digital has worked on several other augmented reality projects with the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions.

“Being able to bring the sheep into your environment means you can be learning on the job and you don’t have to travel or attend a workshop,” Bidstrup said.

“You can also move around the digital object and go through the process of identifying what the issue is, so it’s a real learner-led tool.”

While the app provides invaluable training, it also helps put a focus on biosecurity, Mellor said.

“This helps to keep good biosecurity front of mind and get producers thinking about what they can be doing to best protect their farm or the industry from disease threats,” Mellor said.

The tool has been developed at a time of heightened biosecurity fears.

In June 2022, foot and mouth disease traces were found at Adelaide Airport.

A widespread outbreak would be an $80 billion hit to the Australian economy over a decade, with beef and lamb industries hit the hardest.

The app can be used with or without an AR headset and can be downloaded to a phone or tablet.

Mellor said that more than 300 people from around the world have downloaded the app.

“We have also had ten downloads to the Hololens, which is the augmented reality goggles that we use to showcase the tool, and that’s high a number as that technology is very recent,” she said.

“That’s encouraging as well because it shows that training institutions are actually going out and investing in the technology to utilise it in that really interactive manner.”

The app will be showcased at the evokeAG 2023 conference, hosted in South Australia at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 21-22 February 2023.

AgriFutures evokeAG. is the Asia Pacific region’s premier agrifood tech event.

The two-day event brings everyone –  farmers, innovators, researchers, universities, corporates, government and investors – together to drive impact and create change for the future of food and farming.

The event is a curated experience to gather, connect and inspire engagement around the potential of innovation to shape the future of our food and farming systems.

To get the app, search ‘Sheep EAD AR’ in your app store.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story. Copied to Clipboard

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