July 03, 2018 14:57 CET

Nofence brings grazing technology to the next level, with IoT Value and Tele2 IoT

Nofence develops smart grazing solution with help from Tele2 IoT

When IoT became one of the big buzzwords many of us envisioned a world of smart homes, smart cities, and connected machines – but did we ever imagine that goats feeding in the far-flung pastures of western Norway would be the site of Tele2 IoT connectivity? Even if you didn’t imagine it it’s happening – and it’s changing the way farmers do business. No longer will farmers need to build and repair expensive fences; instead sustainable agriculture is promoted animals are being raised with a lot more freedom. Read the story of Nofence actively working in the field of Internet of Goats, with the help of Tele2 IoT and IoT Value.

The journey from idea to a product

“It all started as an old idea from my childhood, says Oscar Hovde Berntsen, CTO and Founder of Nofence. “I kept thinking how great would it be if there were no fences around the animals, so eventually I started working on how to make that happen.” With the advancement and accessibility of GPS technology it soon became possible, and by 2007 Oscar was working on the first prototypes, which would deliver a solution and revolutionize the way we think about the farming today.

Nofence is a patented grazing technology, allowing farmers around the world to build geographical “fences” on their smartphone application, ensuring that the animals are free to move in a dedicated area. When animals try to move beyond the pre-prescribed area, an audio warning signal activates. If the animal continues the movement, a gentle but effective electric impulse is given to the goat after the highest pitch of the audio warning signal, making it to change direction. The animal learns quickly that it must turn around to avoid the electric shock.

Even though the end solution looks pretty straightforward – a black box resembling a cowbell hanging from a collar – it’s a bit more complicated than it seems. “There are a lot of things you have to bear in mind when you are designing a product for animals,” says Oscar.  “The best thing we can do at the end of the day is to ensure that the animals feel comfortable. “Among the challenges we faced was understanding the behavior of the goats: they are very smart and sociable, and usually their movement patterns are defined by a few goats in the herd. Goats like bushy areas, and on the sunny days like to hide in the shadows. It was also important to select the right audio warning signal, so that the goats are feeling comfortable about it. All of this meant making a lot of technical decisions, thinking about which materials to use for the neck strap, and what would be the optimal size, weight and overall design of the device. The device also had to be water and dust resistant, and decisions needed to be made as to where to place the GPS module and solar panels, as well as how the batteries could be easily detached.

Another, even more important aspect was connectivity: Oscar and his team needed to be sure the solution would work well in any rural area. This is is when Nofence found the perfect partner in Tele2 IoT and with IoT Value.

Tele2 IoT and IoT Value acting as trusted advisors

The cooperation with Tele2 IoT kicked off during the Techcrunch conference in Berlin in 2017. “We had a great meeting with the Tele2 IoT team and they pointed us to their reseller in Norway called IoT Value,” explains Oscar. “From the very beginning, we received tremendous support for our solutions.”

And although Nofence already had a connectivity partner in Norway, they decided to go with the solution provided by Tele2 IoT and IoT Value. “What we really liked was that Tele2 IoT was acting as a trusted advisor during the entire process,” says Oscar. “Instead of pushing us to use LPWAN solutions, both IoT Value and Tele2 IoT were clear: if we wanted to scale the solution across borders, we needed to use a technology which is already in use today. “Even more importantly, they have a local roaming solution, which ensures our devices work in the best network available, which is an important aspect, especially since most of Nofence customers are located in rural areas.”

“I have been working in Telecom business for more than 30 years, and have witnessed how development in communication technologies have changed the market” says Jo Sundheim, Founder of IoT Value. “However, it ‘s important to make sure that we offer customers something that is reliable and that works here and now. Using Tele2 IoT’s local roaming solution, which is unique on Norwegian market, means we can give our customers peace of mind, as well as powerful connectivity, which will not hinder product development. It is always better to start small and be first on the market. The important advantage you gain is that you gain customers, get your name in the market, and more importantly, as technologies evolve, you have the ability to change.” Sundheim likes the flexibility of Tele2 IoT, and says that with the strong partnership between the two companies he feels Tele IoT is interested in his success.

“And thanks to Tele2 IoT’s strong development team, we also get to use more and more innovative products, such as 2Discover – which helps our customers understand where their devices are deployed and which networks are they using in different countries. We see a good use case for that, especially targeting the customer, for whom the battery life is a critical issue, and a telco mast location accuracy that works well.”

The solution benefiting both animals and farmers

The Nofence solution is absolutely amazing, being beneficial for both farmers and the animals. Farmers can reduce fence maintenance, get better insights on behavioral patterns, receive notifications indicating illness, and utilize pastures in the best way. As a result the animals stay healthier, and are more relaxed and less stressed. Just to bring you a number, the shock energy of the Nofence device is a mere 2% of the shock produced by traditional electric fences. Today the solution is used in Norway by approx. 400 goat farmers. We see an increasing interest from the largest agricultural markets in the world, and especially from cattle farmers” says Harald Harstad, Nofence sales representative and co-founder.

In addition to ambitious expansion plans, Nofence also has strong research and development activities. With a team of 10 people, and tight connections to skilled technology partners, they have been pushing to adapt the technology to cattle and will do the final trials for cattle at NMBU (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) this summer. 10 Years of development will start to pay off. And as for IoT Value – they say that what all our customers have in common is they are all in need of well-priced and good quality connectivity that also offers excellent roaming solutions – all of which leaves clients with a strong foundation for fast growth.