THANKS to a Hexham-based business, farmers can keep an eye on their livestock from nearly anywhere in the world with the use of their smartphone or tablet, making innovative use of technology.

Fourth-generation sheep farmer and founder of livestock and security camera specialist StockCam, David Flatman of West Stobby Lea, Hexham, always wanted to follow in the family footsteps with the family farm, but wanted to embrace his passion for IT and utilise his skills to help other farmers become more efficient with their farming, utilising technology where possible.

David’s passion for IT progressed him to a post-graduate qualification in computing, which enabled him in his earlier career to develop degrees in computing and teach on these, which he did for 11 years before being promoted to higher education manager at the same institution.

David founded StockCam in February 2018, and left his full-time job to concentrate on developing his business. The idea of StockCam was developed after David realised the gap in the market. He spent his spare time supporting many local farmers with their IT and realising a need for farmers to engage with technology to make their lives just that bit easier.

“I have always used the latest technology on the family farm where possible to make life easier, with normally having a full-time job and managing the farm at the same time, time was precious and it was essential to look at ways to become more efficient.

With my background in IT, it seemed sensible to engage with this on the farm. I put my own cameras up for livestock monitoring and security, which is when I realised how I could diversify and turn this into my full-time business.”

The livestock cameras are classed as pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ), being able to swivel 360 degrees remotely from a smartphone, tablet or even from a TV at home, enabling a farmer to look around the shed, and into bays.

The zoom function enables the farmer to read an ear tag with the power of 25x zoom, from one side of the shed to the other. Infrared means the camera is usable at night, in a pitch-black shed with no lights on, with a clear picture and live video up to 100m for the standard model, and up to 500m with more expensive models.

All of these functions have proved invaluable when it comes to checking on livestock, not only for saving time, but being able to check on livestock without disturbing them.

As well as livestock cameras, David has specialised in security cameras to give peace of mind to farmers.

“Many of the farmers I have installed livestock cameras for have been concerned about security.

"I have installed a large number of these with object removal notification, where the camera notifies the app if an item has moved, such as a quad bike, pickup, or tractor. In combination with motion detection, which alerts the app if movement is detected, or line crossing where the app. can be notified if someone goes through a gate, this gives farmers a powerful tool to protect their livelihood and have peace of mind.”

The cameras utilise a wireless network or 4G. David has installed wireless networks as part of the solution allowing the farmer also to use WiFi within their sheds and around the yards. Solutions have included linking multiple farm steadings together with wireless links, for one farmer this was over three miles which saved the farmer time and money travelling so many times between the steadings to check on livestock.

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