Firm looks at real-time trailer monitoring

Transport is considered a major stress for livestock so sensors and better control of trailer conditions could improve animal welfare. | File photo

Guelph-based tech company developing remote system aimed at improving animal welfare during transportation

A startup technology company based in Guelph, Ont., is developing a system that will monitor and control environmental conditions in livestock trailers, designed to ensure greater comfort for animals during transport.

Transport Genie uses wireless sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and other environmental conditions.

The system collects data and provides real-time displays to truck drivers or dispatchers.

When environmental conditions fall outside an acceptable range, the sensors send a wireless signal alerting drivers and handlers that steps should be taken to ensure animal comfort.

The system will also be integrated with remotely controlled devices inside the stock trailer, such as heaters, coolers and misters, which would automatically be activated when temperature and humidity thresholds are breached.

Prototype systems are being field tested by the livestock industry and have produced positive results.

Once supporting research is completed, the systems could be commercialized and made available to livestock transport industry, by early to mid-2020.

Joel Sotomayor, president and chief executive officer of Transport Genie, said the system has the potential to address important animal welfare issues in the livestock trucking industry, a part of the supply chain that has often been criticized for doing too little to ensure animal comfort.

“Right now, anybody can buy an off-the-shelf data logger but it won’t provide any real-time information so if there’s a condition occurring in the trailer — it’s either too hot or too cold for example — the driver doesn’t know and corrective action isn’t taken,” Sotomayor said.

“With our system, we have a real-time messaging system so if conditions go above or below a certain threshold, and an alert is sent to the driver.”

Wireless integration would automatically activate climate control systems inside the trailer, eliminating the need for drivers to stop their truck and manually activate heaters, coolers or misters.

“We’ve been trying to find innovative ways to make sure the driver has fewer distractions so they can focus on driving,” Sotomayor said.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”

The system is also capable of collecting GPS data along the truck’s route and recording braking and acceleration patterns, which can be a factor in livestock injuries sustained during transport.

Because it’s wireless, the system is less prone to damage and malfunctions caused by livestock.

The system will also include six general purpose input-output (GPIO) ports allowing additional monitoring devices to be added.

Add-on devices could measure other environmental factors such as air flow, air quality and carbon dioxide levels.

“We’re trying to build the system so that it’s very robust, so not just a fixed system for monitoring temperatures and humidity…,” Sotomayor explained.

“Airflow, sound quality, C02 levels … these are some of the things, down the road, that others have mentioned — things that we are trying to keep the system open for so that we can easily integrate them.”

Angie Luckhart, co-owner and vice-president of Luckhart Transport in Sebringville, Ont., read a news story about Transport Genie and contacted the firm to request a trial.

“We are interested in doing the trial because we are extremely passionate about humane animal transport,” Luckhart said.

“We have numerous trailers in our fleet that offer humane transportation features, such as fans for forced ventilation, water misters to keep animals cool and water drinkers. So naturally, this is just another piece to the puzzle, another way we can be confident that the animals are comfortable in transit.”

Real-time communication is what sets Transport Genie’s technology apart from other data-gathering devices, she said.

The price of the Transport Genie system has yet to be determined but Mark Beaven of the Canadian Animal Health Coalition predicted rapid uptake of the technology by the trucking industry.

“I see the vast majority of transporters taking advantage of the technology in short order,” he said.

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