Student develops anti-stock theft App

Farirai Masocha, a 21-year-old University of Zimbabwe Computer Science student has come up with a livestock tracking application that can work as a digital defence to help prevent stock theft and alert farmers to the condition of animals.

The young innovator said the livestock application takes the traditional animal ear tag commonly used by farmers for identification and adds specially designed capabilities, with direct satellite GPS among them, to monitor the animals’ every move and check on animal temperature for health.

Masocha was inspired to develop the App after seeing the pain and stress his father went through after his Brahman bull went missing at their farm in Chivhu district. Livestock means a lot to his father and losing a Brahman bull was quite troubling for his son.

“I developed the application after my dad’s Brahman bull went missing at our farm. The farm is huge and the lines of worry on my father’s face forced me to think deeply about the possibility of developing a livestock tracking application,” he said at the on- going UZ research innovation and industrialisation week.

“The farm is huge and I had no idea where I could find the bull. I feared that the loss of the bull could trigger depression on my father. He loves his cattle. So being a young computer science student, I thought of using what I learnt from a course on doing the internet of things.”

The Masochas have about 110 cattle that roam freely at their farm. Stock theft is a major problem in the country so developing livestock tracking applications was a priority.

Masocha developed the livestock monitoring and management system which can among other things locate the animal, helping prevent theft as well as inform the farmer about the state of health of the animal. The application has a veld fire detection system to help curb wildfires and deaths or injury of livestock.

The device — still a prototype — combines the electronic animal collar or ear tag and the App. The collar is fixed to all animals and used to monitor the herd. If any abnormal movement is detected or the animal goes beyond the farm, the system alerts the farmer, foreman and farm workers via an alert message on a mobile phone.

Broadly, it tracks the animal in real-time, sending alert messages to find the animal’s location and this helps rapid action to prevent theft or death.

“We developed a software which communicates all the components and helps track the animal on the farm and to where it is if stolen. Even if it’s taken to Masvingo or Mt Darwin we can track it.”

Both large and small-scale farmers could use the device since all that is needed is a mobile phone, the tags and the app.

“If the animal is sick, the temperature could be below 37,5 degrees Celsius and also if it is above 38 degrees, then you know the animal is sick. You get a notification message about this and a farmer can then quickly call livestock extension workers or experts to get assistance before the animal dies.

“All this can help save our farmers and the nation at large our valuable livestock asset through the aid of computer applications. The January disease has killed thousands of animals in most parts of the country. With such applications, it is possible to detect the disease early and save our livestock asset base.”

Cases of stock theft are now rampant in Zimbabwe with rustlers hitting hardest farmers in border areas where rustlers work with cross-border syndicates to steal livestock.

On average, between 5 000 and 10 000 cases of livestock thefts are reported each year in the country according to the ZRP Anti-Stock Theft Unit.

The unit has over the years intensified its campaigns, deployments and community- based initiatives to fight animal thefts. Rustling is causing huge losses to the farmers causing high levels of anxiety for farmers who have built their flock over the years.

“I believe strongly that my application can have wider application and help my dad and indeed the whole nation is fighting stock theft crimes in our country,” said Masocha.

The UZ was holding the event to showcase new frontiers of knowledge and emerging technology and innovations at the institution.

“We are so excited to be hosting this event and the UZ has a lot of talented students who are seeing possibilities and opportunities to develop new applications that can save our livestock assets, plug revenue leakages and enhance our economic growth,” said Prof Florence Mtambanengwe, executive director at the UZ Innovation Hub.

“All this is part of Education 5.0 — a solution-based education model that aims to harness the ingenuity of our students to find solutions to the country’s most pressing problems.”

The event was being held under the theme: “University of Zimbabwe: Actualisation of a Research-Innovation — Industrialisation Ecosystem Model for Zimbabwe’s Economic Development”. Herald

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