Information and Communication Technologies and Robotics for Sustainable Agriculture
Use of ICT tools to capture grass data and optimize grazing management

Project No: 14307

Project dates:
1 Jun 2013 - 31 May 2016


Collaborating Institutions:

Christina Umstatter, Scottish Agricultural College (United Kingdom)

Patrick Halton, Forcefield Active Technologies Ltd. (Ireland)

valérie BROCARD, Institut de l'Elevage (France)

Use of ICT tools to capture...
Full report


Proposal Summary

Profitability on grass-based systems is driven by degree of grass utilization. This is influenced by increased growth and optimum management of that growth. Frequent measurement of grass parameters, e.g. herbage yield, height, density will facilitate increased herbage production and utilization. However, traditionally such measurement on farms is limited. The potential use of ICT for grass measurement is dramatic. This project will test the potential for linking herbage measurement with a spatial dimension, thus allowing precise allocation of feed using GPS technology to be accomplished through developed ICT tools, a smart phone and a grassland management Decision Support Tool (DST). Subsequent integration with 'virtual fence' technology will be evaluated experimentally.

Main Results

A grass measurement system known as ‘Grasshopper’ has been developed. It incorporates a rising plate meter, an ultra-sonic sensor and a data analysis/management system that can also map land areas. The technology measures compressed grass height precisely and transfers that information with GPS coordinates to a SMART device. Herbage yield in the paddock is calculated and this data is then used to automatically define the appropriate area of the mapped paddock to be allocated to the cow herd. The data can also be uploaded automatically to the decision support tool PasturebaseIreland. A new form of virtual fence technology has also been developed and manufactured for testing within an intensive grazing situation.Protocols have been developed for training of cows to use the virtual fence.


The commercial partner has commercialized the ICT tool ‘Grasshopper’. It is commercially available and used for grass measurement on up to 500 farms, mostly in Ireland, but also abroad. It has contributed significantly to the promotion of the decision support tool (DST) PastureBaseIreland’ (used for decision-making on grassland and grazing management) as it allows direct uploading of the data to this DST. Through its ease of use and automated elements, it has increased the number of farmers conducting grassland measurement at farm level. Also, a prototype virtual fence was developed and successfully implemented. This progressed information on virtual fencing for other researchers and indicated areas to focus on to develop this work further, e.g. the importance of animal training protocols.