We are delighted to announce that SUPER-G project partners, RISE and SLU Ecology Centre, have received additional funding from a Swedish Board of Agriculture research and development grant (FOU) to continue working with virtual fencing technology in Sweden. The project “Flexible grazing with virtual fences for increased biodiversity” will start immediately.
Matt Hiron at SLU said, “We are very pleased that we can continue the work we started in 2022, when we tested the technology on cattle for the first time in Sweden”. During 2022, SUPER-G, the WWF and SustAinimal financed a virtual fencing project on permanent grassland located approximately 50 km north of Uppsala. This new project will continue on the same farm during 2023 with the hope of expanding to other sites of conservation interest in subsequent years. Virtual fencing is a technology that allows grazing animals to be digitally fenced-in using GPS collars that first emit audio warnings and then electric pulses if the animals go outside a defined digital boundary. Virtual fencing has great potential to meet the need for more flexible and efficient grazing management. Farmers, conservation groups, and the authorities tasked with grazing valuable semi-natural grasslands are interested in the technology. The results from 2022 showed that the cattle quickly learned to associate the sound signal with a virtual fence boundary and that grazing pressure could be controlled with the push of a button on a mobile phone.
The new project’s main goal is to continue testing the technology and show practical applications for how virtual fencing can be used for different conservation management scenarios. “We believe that flexible grazing with virtual fences can contribute to Sweden’s ability to achieve environmental targets linked to biodiversity and rich and varied agricultural landscapes”, says Matt Hiron. The project will also contribute with more knowledge about the animal welfare aspects of the technology that the Swedish Board of Agriculture has identified as important for decisions regarding possible approval for general use of the technology in Sweden.
An important part of the project is a continued dialogue with farmers and agricultural industry, conservation and governmental organisations in the form of an advisory group linked to the project.