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EShepherd Takes Home Gold At The 2019 Sydney GDA’s

We were thrilled that eShepherd was nominated for a Good Design Award. However we could not contain our excitement when eShepherd took home Gold at the GDA’s on the 11th of July at The Star Sydney. The GDA’s are the design world’s night of nights, bringing together top Australian and international design talent to celebrate world leading designs. The event showcases successful projects across fields such as architecture, communication, digital, engineering and many more. The Gold accolade is awarded to products, services or projects that have not only met the criteria for a Good Design “tick”, but exceed them.

The eShepherd virtual animal herding solution, designed by Cobalt for Agersens is an IoT driven platform encompassing a GPS enabled neckband and cloud-based application controlled by farmers which is used to fence, move and monitor livestock. The intelligent neckband system trains livestock to recognise and stay within virtual boundaries, via the use of sensors that detect and respond to animal behaviour. Audio cues and gentle pulse stimuli guide the animals to remain within the virtual boundaries. Farmers use a cloud-based web application to create virtual paddock boundaries and check on livestock activity, all of which are updated dynamically to ensure accurate data. This design solution is reliable and functional in the harshest conditions, combining a durable form with long lasting battery life that has a positive impact on animal welfare.

The award for the eShepherd neckband is an exciting recognition, due to the superior level of critical design thinking, product engineering and testing the Cobalt team put into the project. Cobalt was approached for the project with an already detailed concept to work with. However there were fundamental aspects of the design (including the position of the solar panel) that needed to be re-designed. In conjunction with this, a strict set of user needs had to be abided by, to ensure the utmost safety for both livestock and farmers.

The unique nature of this project brought with it equally as unique challenges. According to project leader Libby Christmas, the biggest challenge revolved around the lack of pre-existing biometrics on bovine necks/heads. “One of our quirkiest tasks was creating ‘Angus,’ our very own anatomically-correct bovine mannequin to test early concepts.” Using CAD design and our own bovine neck-circumference research data (thanks to Cobalt product design engineer Davis Tolley), we were successfully able to test prototype concepts, particularly to do with how the counterweight functioned and how to maximise the solar harvesting aspect.

This project also brought the Cobalt team some of its best moments, pushing us to use lean production techniques and knowledge-based decision making. It was a different strategy that Cobalt had not used previously, but the act of consciously filling knowledge gaps heightened risk mitigation and team collaboration.

With this project demanding distinctive requirements, Cobalt’s plethora of expertise areas were drawn upon. This included our in depth understanding of user needs, and most importantly our experience with engineering, prototyping and design for adaptability.

Since the completion of the project, the eShepherd device has undergone prototype runs and field trials, with the Agersens team growing substantially. The design has been gradually modified for scalability and cost reduction, and has received wide-spread public attention in the market.

Cobalt associate principal Libby Christmas and product design engineer Thao Nguyen represented our team. It was a wonderful night full of celebration, networking and admiration of our fellow designers.