THE BLOG

Chipsafer: Upgrading Agriculture

17/10/2014 11:01 BST | Updated 16/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Maria Victoria Alonsoperez is a One Young World delegate from Uruguay. She was a delegate speaker during the Global Business Plenary Session at the 2014 Summit in Dublin.

Currently, there are one billion farmers in the world living below the poverty line that depend on livestock. Imagine the devastation to these people if they lost their animals, their only source of income.

In 2001, I witnessed an outbreak of the deadly Foot and Mouth Disease which severely affected the economic prosperity of my country, Uruguay, and of the whole region. A huge amount of animals were slaughtered, and exporting ceased until the decontamination process was over. Cattle are Uruguay's principal export and so this epidemic affected the entire society, causing widespread economic losses of more than 500 million dollars and creating vast amounts of poverty and unemployment.

It was at the time of the outbreak that I started thinking of ways of how I could detect diseases in cattle at an early stage. Technology was not as advanced as today, I did not even have a cell phone, so I didn't know how to carry out my quest. Still, the idea in my mind persisted.

Chipsafer

Being passionate about space and technology, I decided to study electronic engineering and focused on small satellites. Small satellites are objects that recharge themselves and allow the transmission and reception of information from space.  I incorporated my new-found knowledge with the problem I had thought about years before; translating this idea into a system that could monitor animals completely autonomously. From this came Chipsafer, a platform that can track cattle and allows early detection of anomalies in a remote and autonomous way.

The animals wear a device that sends information about them to my company's server. We then process the information and generate statistics. The farmer can access any information about his animals at any time and place through a laptop or mobile device. Chipsafer is especially useful for countries like Uruguay where the animals are scattered in huge extensions of land.

Over time, more problems facing farmers became apparent to me and so I modified Chipsafer to meet their needs. These included; tracking herd movements, improving productivity, and monitoring and preventing cattle theft. The latter is something that every farmer feels passionate about since it is such a big problem in Uruguay.

Commercialisng Chipsafer proved difficult. In the beginning it was hard as I didn't really know how or where to start. I had little business experience and my background was purely technical. I contacted a friend with more business nouse than myself and we started IEETech together.

I applied for a competition organized by the International Telecommunication Union for young entrepreneurs in the hope of getting some positive attention to my project. To my surprise, I had been a successful applicant and had taken first prize. This gave me the opportunity to attend master workshops which proved to be extremely helpful.

The past two years working on Chipsafer were absolutely amazing. Although there were many difficult days, they were all part of the overall process. Last year the World Intellectual Property Organization presented me with the Best Young Inventor Award. This was a major achievement for the company and helped raise awareness of the Chipsafer amongst the farming community.

A Chipsafer Future

The plans for the future are also to help the end consumer, because through the technological monitoring of agriculture and farming, consumers will be able to know exactly what they are eating, where it came from, and how healthy the food is. This is particularly important to overcome malnutrition which continues to be a global issue, despite the lack of media attention given.

We are now increasing our production plans for next year to meet the expected demand. We are currently only operating in Uruguay, but we are already planning on expanding to other Latin American countries and beyond. My main goal for Chipsafer is to enable the whole world to acquire secure and objective information about their animals and about the food we are eating; bringing a substantial improvement in the quality of life for farmers and the global food industry.

The One Young World Summit is taking place 15 - 18 October in Dublin. You can watch it as it happens on the livestream http://www.oneyoungworld.com/.