SpaceCows the star tracking feral cattle and buffalo

15 September 2021
  • Feral cattle and buffalo management project in NT using satellite tracking and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • CSIRO, Australian Science Agency and Microsoft working with Indigenous landowners to develop virtual replica of the landscape.
  • Project supports sustainable development and restoration of degraded landscapes to enhance biodiversity, soil and water values.

Feral cattle and buffalo management in the NT is reaping the benefits of space-based technology with a project using satellite data and artificial intelligence to track feral cattle and buffalo.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the SpaceCows project would help Indigenous landowners improve how they manage feral cattle and buffalo populations by creating a virtual picture of the landscape.

“Feral cattle and buffalo can have serious negative impacts such as biodiversity loss, overgrazing and land degradation to rivers and wetlands,” Minister Littleproud said.

“But they’re also a valuable resource in northern Australia and, if managed correctly, can be utilised as a commodity rather than burden on the landscape.

“Involving technology companies, such as Microsoft, in efforts to improve land management in the across Northern Australia is a real game changer. 

“By combining artificial intelligence, machine learning, space technology and local Indigenous knowledge, this project is delivering one of the world largest remote herd management systems. 

“Bringing together GPS data from tagged animals and weather data, as well as AI, the project will map best routes for rangers to reach and manage the feral animals.

“It will be a step change in production, biodiversity conservation, water quality and restoration of degraded landscapes and help to offer a road map for improved management of feral herds.”

The SmartHerd management program (SpaceCows) is a $4 million, 4-year initiative led by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. SmartHerd will see more than 1,000 unmanaged cows and buffalos electronically tracked using GPS satellite tracking tags.

The program is funded under the Australian Government’s Smart Farming Partnerships initiative, being delivered as part of the National Landcare Program. 

Fast Facts:

  • SpaceCows is a partnership between CSIRO, the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA), satellite IoT company Kinéis, James Cook University, Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation, Aak Puul Ngangtam, Normanby Land Management, Charles Darwin University and Microsoft.
  • The $136 million Smart Farms program is the key agriculture portfolio initiative under phase two of the $1.1 billion National Landcare Program.
  • Smart Farms encourages the development and uptake of best practice and technology to help farmers and land managers to protect soils, water and vegetation and improve productivity
  • These larger, innovative projects are being delivered through effective partnerships between experienced and skilled organisations and individuals and were offered over two rounds.