5G comes to sheep counting, food safety and firefighting

Sheep Central, September 7, 2021

UTS researcher associate professor Jian Zhang explains automated sheep counting technology at the Horsham saleyards, watched by the Ouyen Livestock Exchange’s Prue Lynch and Australian Livestock Saleyards Association president Stuart McLean.

Sheep going through an automated counting demonstration at the Horsham saleyards earlier this year.

AUTOMATED sheep counting, artificial intelligence-enabled meat analysis and a remote controlled fire tanker have received funding from the federal 5G Innovation Initiative.

Almost $20 million has been allocated to 19 projects across key sectors of the economy, including agriculture, construction, manufacturing, transport, and education and training.

Automated livestock counting to remove human error

TPG Telecom Limited has been awarded $1,455,000 to conduct a livestock counting trial at the Bendigo Livestock Exchange, to demonstrate how 5G networks can complement artificial intelligence-enabled image processing, computer vision and edge computing technologies to deliver benefits and efficiencies to agriculture.

The company has partnered with Nokia, the University of Technology Sydney and Amazon Web Services to conduct the 12-month trial at the Bendigo Regional Livestock Exchange in Victoria.

The project will use TPG Telecom’s 5G network to enable multiple high quality 4K video streams to count sheep at the livestock exchange, automating the process and removing human error. A supporting 5G edge network will process the counting on site and relay the data in real time back to farmers on a tablet or mobile device.

TPG Telecom general manager wireless and transmission networks, Yago Lopez, said the 5G links will provide greater capacity and reliability for data processing which has the potential to save many hours of manual labour per year.

“The 5G wireless and edge computing technologies involved in this project will be used to count sheep by providing extremely fast downlink and uplink rates and increased capacity, which is needed to support multiple high quality video feeds.

“These video streams of sheep counts will be uploaded on site and relayed through our 5G network, which will process the counting on site and feed the data in real time back to farmers on a tablet or mobile device,” he said.



“We look forward to seeing what benefits from this trial can be rolled out across the livestock industry nationally and are looking at other innovation opportunities to ensure 5G supports key industries.”

TPG Telecom said it has fast-tracked its 5G rollout, with 100 new 5G sites now being added every month. With the completion of Australia’s most advanced 5G standalone core later this year, the company said it is firmly on track to cover 85 percent of the population in ten of the largest cities and regions by the end of the year.

The automated sheep counting system being developed by UTS researcher associate professor was demonstrated at the Horsham saleyards earlier this year and has also been successfully trialled for live export and in feedlots.

Food safety verification is about to get smarter

The AMPC trial will look at the potential for remote auditing and compliance monitoring through computer vision technology.

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation has partnered with Bondi Labs to secure $412,000 for a trial of 5G-enabled technology to improve the quality assurance process of meat production.

AMPC said the trial will:

  • Implement streaming of high-definition video data from meat processing plants for us by on-plant veterinarians and food safety meat assessors, and;
  • Augment human decision making based on video stream data, using edge computing as well as artificial intelligence-enabled machine vision analysis of meat production.

The 12-month project starts this month at AMPC-member meat processing plants across Victoria and Queensland.

AMPC chief executive officer Chris Taylor said limited connectivity in rural and regional Australia is a major challenge for processors.

“Our industry is enthusiastic about embracing technological innovations, and a stable and high-bandwidth internet connection is critical for that.”

AMPC said the project will demonstrate whether 5G will be a viable technology for delivering internet connectivity to regional meat processing plants. It will look at delivering high speed internet to enable smart verification technologies such as high-fidelity video streaming that can be used for remote auditing and compliance monitoring through computer vision technology.

“Our goal is to reduce the cost of compliance and at the same time increase the effectiveness of compliance auditing for our members in regional and rural Australia,” Mr Taylor said.

AMPC program manager Matt O’Bryan said the project will help on-site veterinarians through the provision of technologies to augment their tasks and decision making, adding value to outputs of their roles and better outcomes for AMPC members.

“Food safety auditors will benefit with the edition of new tools for verification that will reduce the regulatory burden for processors.”

Remote fire-fighting gets a $1.49 million boost

Rheinmetall Defence Australia has won funding to trial a remote controlled firefighting tank. Image – Rheinmetall.

Rheinmetall Defence Australia Pty Ltd was awarded $1,496,627 under the initiative to trial a 5G remote controlled firefighting tank.

As part of its Advanced Firefighting Concept (AFC), Germany-based company Rheinmetall is developing an autonomous/remote control firefighting vehicle or tank, capable of traversing extremely dangerous terrains to support rescue, path clearing and firefighting missions.

This project will investigate using low-band 5G to support long-range remote control of these vehicles. The project is focused on investigating the feasibility of this technology and development of a drone based 5G range extension capability.

Rheinmetall Defence Australia managing director Gary Stewart said the AFC is based on the German infantry fighting vehicle platform and aims to reduce the risk to the firefighters on the front line.

“It was developed after the 2019/20 bush fires,” he said.

During the vehicle conversion, a fire-fighting cannon and a tank with fire extinguishing agents were integrated into the armoured personnel carrier chassis. The engine has been adapted for operation in hot areas with fires. A digital remote control has been installed so all functions of the vehicle – forward / reverse, steering, use of the fire extinguisher – can be controlled. Cameras transmit the images from the location of the vehicle and enable the use of the fire extinguisher and can be used as a basis for deploying forces in the area, the company said.

“This enables the fire engine to traverse dangerous terrain to support rescue, clearance and firefighting operations over distances of more than 100 kilometres,” Mr Stewart said.

Rheinmetall said with the support of telco Telstra it wants to use an unmanned aircraft as a communication relay, which will set up a 5G network for the detached fire engine.

The fire extinguishing vehicle, remotely controlled via a 5G network, will in future overcome areas at risk from fire and carry out fire extinguishing operations up to 100 km away and transmit information on conducting operations and assessing damage without endangering personnel, the company said.

Do you have something to say about this?

What do the gun sheep counters in our saleyards have to say about giving the job up to technology? Should we leave food safety assessment to artificial intelligence-enabled machine vision analysis? And do any of the rural firefighters out there see a role for remote-controlled vehicles? Sheep Central readers would love to see your viewpoint in the comments section under this article.


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