CAPE TOWN - The financial  impact of rising stock theft in South Africa has made it essential for farmers to use technology to stay a step ahead by keeping their herds in check, according to Marius van der Merwe, a director of the Alphawave Group and product manager of FarmRanger.

FarmRanger is a functional and effective app, which delivers the right information to farmers so they can mitigate the impact of stock theft on their business.

According to a study released by Unisa, there were more than 29 000 cases of stock theft reported over the past financial year, with thousands of animals stolen, costing the South African agricultural economy more than R1 billion last year.

Van der Merwe said while most of the group’s client’s were sheep farmers, FarmRanger was also popular with a growing number of cattle farmers because of the rise of cattle theft in addition to the trend of sheep theft.

“It’s the collar that is fitted around the necks of the animals. Typically in the case of sheep, the farmer will buy one collar for roughly about 300 sheep in the flock. For cattle it is a bit different - about 50 cattle per collar. "

He said  the collar  was cost effective in that one didn't have to collar every animal because the animals tended to move together in a flock or herd.

However, if  there were sets of animals in different camps on a farm, more than one collar was needed.

“If there is a disturbance like attempted theft or a predator then the flock movement will, therefore, be in unison with the one animal with the collar. What the collar does is that it  basically monitors the animals movement.

It picks up abnormal movement . The collar will know whether as the animal grazes there will be normal movement, but for example if there is attempted theft or a predator, the movement will change and the collar will detect that,” he said.

Van der Merwe said the collar sets off an alarm to the user's smartphone.

He said when the client purchased the collar,  they set it up for for the client. The  client could chose to have an alarm on his/her phone or set it up for the foreman on the farm; community watch;or security company where there was a group of farms, he said.

Van der Merwe added that a notification is also sent to the app.

“The app basically tells you two things it gives you a list of all the collars you might have and it also gives you a map for each of those collars. Normally if it is not an alarm situation, farmers use the app to check where their animals are everyday. 

"I have found that especially for guys with large camps it gives them peace of mind to know at which part of the camp the animals are grazing. It saves them the time to go out and see where the animals are,” he said.

Van der Merwe said the app was used to track the animal in real time, following the detailed information on the app to find the animal’s location and effectively prevent it from being killed or stolen.

“The rising trend of stock theft makes it essential for farmers to use technology so they can stay one step ahead. However, the solutions need to be simple and reliable, providing farmers with valuable insight when it is needed the most” said Van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe said the collar was retailing for  about R6 100.

BUSINESS REPORT