The main goal of the project SheepIT is to improve an ancient and ecological weeding practice, consisting in the use of animals, usually ovines, to graze the vineyards, eliminating the unwanted weeds and fertilizing the soil. As sheep tend to feed also on grapes and lower branches of the vines, causing significant production losses, project SheepIT is developing an autonomous mechanism that aims to control the sheep’s posture and location. The goal is to keep them within designated areas and prevent them from eating fruits and vine branches. Whenever the system detects an incorrect posture it emits a sound followed by an electrostatic stimuli. Associating the sound with the stimuli makes the sheep revert the behavior as soon as they hear the sound. After 3minutes they stop trying to eat above the defined height. And within 15minutes they just eat what they´re supposed to and the electrostatic stimuli ceases. The system relies on IoT concepts to monitor and control the animals. Data concerning the behavior and physical condition of each animal is sent, in real-time, to a cloud platform. This allows human operators to oversee the flock status, namely browsing the collected data about animals and equipment. It also allows deploying algorithms to process the data and detect abnormal situations, such as health conditions, lost animals or predator attacks, generating automatic alarms when such events occur.
The system architecture was designed in order to provide a flexible and adaptable solution regardless of the vineyard’s size and shape. Moreover, the human intervention is maintained at a low level, being only indispensable for setting up the devices. The system includes a portable electronic collar, carried by the sheep, responsible for monitoring and controlling its behavior; fixed beacons, installed in vineyards, responsible for interconnecting the network devices, defining the virtual fence placement and supporting the collar’s relative localization; a gateway device, that aggregates data from all the beacons and uploads it to the cloud; and a cloud application, responsible for gathering all the collected data and make it available to the user.