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April 10, 2019

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Hi-tech herders over the hump of difficult times

One of Pan Duojun’s camels is about to give birth, but the herder is not worried for he can easily locate the camel after its delivery with the navigation device it now wears.

“In the past, it was hard to discover the whereabouts of the camels in time,” said Pan in Alxa Left Banner, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

“I had to climb up a sand dune and look through my telescope. Now I just sit at home, tracing the camels with my cellphone. I will follow the navigation if I want to get them.”

In the past, he would ride his motorcycle searching for the animals.

The navigation system Pan uses is domestically developed.

Unimunke, a livestock engineer with the livestock breed improvement station of Alxa Left Banner, said the navigation system combines GPS and mobile network technologies, which enables herders to monitor their cattle from a distance.

The vast Gobi Desert in Alxa is a paradise for camels, while local herders keep all kinds of livestock including sheep and cows. Technology has made their lives much easier.

By the sink where the animals drink, Pan showed reporters an infrared sensor water supply machine.

When a person or animal stands 2 to 8 meters from the tank, the infrared probe can sense it, and the pump automatically sends groundwater to the tank, he said.

The equipment can also control the water level in the tank. When the water level drops to the lower limit, the pump is activated. When the water level reaches the upper limit, the pumping will stop.

“We don’t worry anymore about waste from overflows, or livestock going without water,” Pan said.

Pan also installed Internet surveillance cameras near the wells, so he can watch from his cellphone or computer at home whether his livestock have drunk water and whether there is enough water.

“We used to pump water for the camels at regular intervals, but now we use the smart water systems instead,” he said.

“When working in the fields or going out on business, we don’t have to worry about whether the camels are getting water.”

In the banner, more than 100 herdsmen are using intelligent grazing and water supply equipment, said Unimunke. A whole set of equipment costs 1,200 yuan (US$179).

More than 20 tech companies in Inner Mongolia are developing intelligent grazing systems.

Intelligent equipment can help herders reduce their working hours by an average of more than 50 percent.

It can also help each household save at least 5,000 yuan per year in grazing costs, with more than 2,000 yuan saved on fuel for motorcycles.


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