Vence was founded to improve the affordability and availability of sustainable animal protein. By 2050, the world will need to feed more than 10 billion people and require a 70% increase in global food production. Animal protein accounts for 20% of the global diet, so the world needs a lot more livestock. However, these is no space to grow, farmers are being forced to produce more food, for less, using less resources per animal.
We believe that innovation occurs at the intersection of need and knowledge. Our business was started to solve a need and we have assembled the knowledge. We are utilizing connected sensors, artificial intelligence and leading animal behavioral research to transform one of societies oldest and most valuable industries. We seek to enhance the lives of our customers as well as the animals they are rearing to help feed all of us.
Traditional fencing is a static solution, and managing animals is a dynamic problem. Dr. Dean Anderson came upon this realization while researching cattle nearly 40 years ago. This insight led him into what became his life’s work. He observed that animals already responded to audio cues such as air horns, vehicle sounds and even his own voice, so he hypothesized he could replicate this via playing audio on a device attached to the animal.
He realized if the device also knew its location using GPS he could effectively control where the animals would move by creating virtual boundaries made of GPS coordinates. Many years later his research moved from research paper to the field with the help of Dr. Daniela Rus, the head of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. She had independently considered whether many of the theories applicable to the robotics field could be applied to livestock management.
A new prototype was developed consisting of GPS, PDA, wireless networking and a sound amplifier. Using the GPS, the animals location could be verified and then controlled relative to the fence boundary using algorithms the team developed. The research was truly visionary, however at an initial cost per unit of nearly $300,000, the technology and cost was not ready to move towards commercialization. The research concluded, the papers were written and the solution put on the shelf for some later moment in time.
30 years ago, owners thought the idea of electric fencing would never work to control their animals. The owner of one of the largest electric fencing companies said recently “ by the middle of the century, virtual fencing will be the fencing of choice.” People have seen what fencing technology can do to improve the productivity and profits are on their business, they are ready for more innovation.
The Holdsworth family has run a livestock operation in the Gisborne region of New Zealand for over 100 years. In the last decade, Jasper witnessed the economic benefits of rotational grazing on their property and began investing heavily in fencing infrastructure to increase the productivity of the farm. While the returns have justified the investment, they were sizeable and led him to investigate whether alternatives existed. Looking at the cost structure of the farm he realized that over 30% of the total costs were associated with animal management (fencing, labor, atv, dogs, etc) and pondered a way to use technology to perform this crucial task. Instead of trying to solve the problem himself he reached into his network to find people who could help build a solution…and a business was built.
Director MIT Computer Science &
Artificial Intelligence Lab
USDA Animal/Range Scientist.
Creator of Virtual Fencing
Software Engineer / Designer
Cattle Behavioral Expert
and Community Leader
Chair PEO USNA Electrical
Head of Testing for Orbital / ATK