In 2017 alone, AgTech funding increased 32% to $2.6 billion (€2.3 billion) – with half of the top 20 deals in the space in excess of $50 million (€44.7 million). Among the sectors embracing emerging technology is the dairy industry – a trade that, for centuries, has been a vital mainstay of global and local economies, with farming practices passed down from generation to generation. It’s as much a science as it is an art, with farmers relying on their intuition and their gut as much as any data at their disposal.
Modern, 21st-century dairy is big business – generating expected revenues of US$442.32 billion (€395.55 billion) just this year alone; and according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, food production will need to increase 70% if, as predicted, the population reached 9.1bn by 2050. As a result, food producers need to get smarter to deliver greater crop yields and manage larger herds of livestock. The proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) in business has inspired other sectors to think about they can use technology, and farming is no different.
Real-time dairy data
Dairy farmers are now going digital with immediate access to real-time data to help them sustainably drive efficiency and optimise production without compromising on the health and well-being of their herds, especially as the global dairy business loses billions worth of production every year due to undetected udder infections. By understanding the immediate impact of essential factors like weather, climate, and feed, and having the ability to detect and monitor calving schedules can mean the difference between making or losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With advancements in technology, particularly the intersection of IoT and cloud communications platforms, every step of the journey from “farm to table” is shifting. For example, Connecterra, based in the Netherlands, is bringing the farming industry into the 21st century with its Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled dairy assistant. Ida uses a motion sensor, attached to cows’ collars, to alert farmers to changes in the herd, from illness to unexpected drops in productivity. Before Ida, monitoring a herd was a 24/7 job, with farmers keeping a close eye over their cow – which often meant cows were confined to tight spaces in order to manage the herd.
By introducing wearable sensors, an AI-enabled platform, mobile app and cloud communications capabilities, farmers wake up to SMS notifications detailing specific cow behaviours – even if they’re moving about the pasture free-range. Alerts can either be at the herd-level or an individual cow. For example: “Cow #1522 has had a drop in eating and is ruminating” or “Cow #94 has signs of mastitis.”
Because Ida understands the history and context of each cow, once a health issue is identified, it uses analytics to help farmers diagnose and deal with the issue -allowing farmers to detect illness and lameness up to two days or more before the human eye recognises there’s a problem.
In addition, the barnyard benefits of AI aren’t just buzz when applied to smart farming. Automated intelligence coupled with cloud communications and IoT is making a real impact for real farmers across the world.
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