Artificial intelligence is gaining grounds in animal farming at an exciting rate, from rearing close to 10 million pigs at Tegu Group, a farm in China, to helping dairy farmers in Europe, and now in the US. With more research, it’s expected that farmers worldwide will turn to AI and its sister technologies to optimize productivity in all areas, including egg production in hybrid chicken farming.
Well, here we are not hallucinating about humanoid robotic laborers gathering grass to feed the animals or fetching water to fill troughs in the barnyard to boost milk production, it’s beyond that. The tech is able to monitor and transmit important information about the behavioral changes of the animals.
Call It an Intelligent System for Dairy Farming
The invention we are talking about here has its roots from a Dutch company -Connecterra, which combines AI and motion sensors to track domestic animals. The tech, which is best known as The Intelligent Farmers Assistant or the IDA system by scientists, has recorded several years of success in Europe and is expected to do the same now in US-based farms.
In other words, the AI as a service concept is becoming a reality faster than thought before – because in this case, the United States will be importing this tech possibly through the clouds. That is, anybody with the right hardware can tap the software – (hopefully from anywhere in the globe in the near future.)
How The IDA System Uses Artificial Intelligence to Monitor Cows
Before explaining this, let’s set facts right a bit. Dairy farming is a very sensitive practice because, ideally, farmers need to practically observe and exercise care for each individual cow, to understand their health, physiological and physical condition, to ensure optimum production of milk. Some farmers like to say dairy-cows are like babies because they need a lot of care and attention as opposed to other breeds of cattle.
“When you have 1000 plus of such animals, the task becomes obviously overwhelming and nearly impossible to catch up with each individual cow,” says Richard Watson a farmer who resolved to employ the tech, immediately it launched towards the end of last year.
Now let’s get to it. IDA system deploys a motion-detector gadget which is tied around the neck of the animal to monitor body movements and patterns, then transmit the data to a software driven by AI. The device is made to master how the cow behaves when everything is normal – decoding that to information, which after a short time empowers the IDA to understand when the animal is eating, drinking, walking or lying down chewing the cud.
If an individual cow is not doing any or some of the above daily stuff, the system highlights it as potentially sick, or less productive. The change of behavior may also indicate when the cow is on heat or nearing delivery – where a veterinary officer is expected to come in to ensure everything about the calve and the mother cow goes right.
The Potential in the Technology
According to Seven Oaks Dairy director Mr. Watson, who as of now owns nearly 2000 cows, having a computer program that is able to identify animals that need health attention fast, eases the whole aspect of farming and helps to boost farm productivity. With such a number of animals, a 10% improvement in the system would mean increasing the profit margin to thousands of dollars.
Like many other AI-driven applications in this industry, IDA harbors lots of hope for dairy farmers. In general, there has been a growing interest – researchers inventing agriculture-related techs. Some weeks back we saw how AI could help papaya farmers to point out the degree of ripeness in the quest to sort out export-able fruits.
Meeting The Technological Need in Agriculture
“Farmers need to grow out of old technologies as that is the only way to beat the rising global hunger,” explained Yasir Khokhar, a former employee of Microsoft and founder of Conecterra. The engineer further illustrated how agriculture happens to be among the key industries which badly needs to embrace emerging techs.
IDA can be served to farmers anywhere because it ideally uses Google’s TensorFlow framework that uses the Python code language to avail AI to different users online.