October 14, 2020
I was excited to attend World Dairy Expo earlier this month, not just because of the endless amounts of cheese available, but to see the great technology available to dairy farmers these days.
Check out my piece on Nedap’s very cool augmented reality (AR) technology that was introduced at Expo last year. If you’ve never been to Expo, it will give you an idea of what to expect.
It’s amazing how much technology is in dairy these days, from robots to remote sensors and the apps that farmers use to track almost everything from feeding to production to what robots aren’t working.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 had its way with the organizers of World Dairy Expo. My hopes of attending this year’s event were dashed as quickly as the hopes of my baseball team making the playoffs this season (I’m a Phillies fan, in case you care) and it was a quick season.
But the ability to do almost anything virtual still made it possible for me to get my dairy technology fix. So, I attended the recent Global Dairy Tech Start-up Spotlight earlier this month to see what new technology companies are cooking up for dairy farmers.
Sure, these technologies aren’t for everyone and let’s face it, a lot of them aren’t cheap. But it’s still interesting to see what the future might hold as technology improves and farmers continue looking for ways to shore up their margins.
Here’s some highlights from the event:
A robot that gives shots. The Sureshot by Pharm Robotics is a robotic injection system.
It works like this: A cow enters the robotic injector platform located in the barn. A computer reads the cow’s RFID tag to if it needs a shot. If it needs a shot, a robotic arm swings around, injects the shot in the neck, and then the gate and bumper restraint release. Data from the shot is uploaded in real time.
Alika Chuck, co-founder of Pharm Robotics, says the system is designed to address rising labor costs on dairies as well as traceability of pharmaceuticals.
Whole-farm monitoring. Cainthus has developed a whole-farm monitoring system that uses AI and computers for constant cow monitoring.
Tyler Bramble, portfolio growth manager for Cainthus, says it’s designed to keep track of cattle feeding in real time, so a producer can see when their cows are feeding, or not feeding, in real time, and then schedule a feed replenishment right away.
It works via cameras that are placed in the apex of barn ceilings. Using AI, the cameras are trained to recognize amounts of feed in the barn and that data is shared through an app to the producers.
MIT digs dairy. Two technologies featured at the virtual event were developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but are designed to do very different things.
Fyto is working on a technology that it claims will “completely reinvent feed and forage crops.”
They’re using aquatic plants to quickly grow protein for dairies — between 10 and 30 times more protein per acre than traditional crops, according to Jason Prapas, founder and CEO of Fyto.
The plants are grown in engineered ponds and are cultivated and harvested using automation. The technology was developed last year, he says, and is currently being trialed on a dairy in California.
Labby, a company that came out of MIT’s Media Lab, has developed a handheld analyzer for detecting milkfat, protein and somatic cell counts through beaming light onto a milk sample and then using AI to detect component levels and SCC.
Julia Somerdin, co-founder and CEO of Labby, says the company is working with Dairy One to provide data in real time to producers through a smartphone app. The company generates income through selling its detection equipment as well as charging for monthly testing.
Monitoring pulsators. The milc Pulse by milc Group is a pulsation monitoring system that can let you know on your smartphone if your milking unit isn’t working properly.
It does this by measuring vacuum levels in the vacuum lines. If a pulsator isn’t working correctly, it will automatically notify the producer through an app.
Portable profitability. The Zisk dairy app is designed to help producers keep track of profitability through tracking prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and keeping track of milk, corn and soybean meal prices.
The app watches the markets for the producer. All the producer needs to provide is the number of cows in the herd, daily production and bonus per hundredweight on the milk check.
PORTABLE PLANNER: The Zisk dairy app is designed to help producers keep track of profitability through tracking prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and keeping track of milk, corn and soybean meal prices.
Mastitis monitors. Detecting mastitis and subclinical mastitis was a recurring theme during the event.
Advanced Animal Diagnostics is betting on its QScout MLD technology to help farmers scout for subclinical mastitis. Their technology works via milk samples taken from the quarters of each cow using a small testing device.
The samples are then analyzed using the farm-based QScout Farm Lab, where in minutes it can detect subclinical mastitis.
For rotary dairy parlors, EIO Diagnostics uses a sensor installed at the entrance of the milk parlor to capture an image of the udder as the animal enters.
The sensor is installed at the entry of a rotary. As each cow moves past, it captures a thermal map of the udder. Data from those images is processed through machine learning to identify early indicators of infection.
The company claims that its FirstLook Mastitis system can identify subclinical and early-stage mastitis days before a person would see physical signs.
The company charges $1 per cow per month for the service. It is currently installed on two dairies in Minnesota and will be rolled out nationwide next year.
SomaDetect is an in-line optical sensor that uses light scattering for rapid, on-site determinations of compounds in raw milk.
Using algorithms the company claims that it can quickly detect herd health indicators in raw milk, including somatic cell counts, to diagnose mastitis quickly and improve reproductive performance.