A New Level of Intelligence in Herd Mentality: How Two Companies are Innovating in Precision Dairy Farming


According to the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN), an organization established over twenty years ago which unites research partners in analyzing dairy farming systems around the world, between now and 2030, the growth of worldwide demand for milk and milk products will increase by 35%.

Today, about nearly a billion tons of milk is produced worldwide, and according to Dr. Torsten Hemme, Managing Director of the IFCN, "More milk will be needed on the market. The increase of demand is not only due to more people living in the world, but also the per capita consumption will increase, due to growing prosperity and worldwide investments in dairy product development."

To keep up with growing demand and increasingly rigorous standards for food quality and safety, hundreds of new technologies in milk production have been emerging, from the use of biotech and big data analytics to the use of blockchain to better manage the supply chain.

Some of the most exciting innovations are coming out of the world of IoT and Industrial IoT, designed to collect and interpret data to make production more efficient and help to safeguard resources, especially in geographic areas where food insecurity is a compounding problem.

Pradeep Thakran, Managing Director at Ranchpal OÜ, saw an opportunity to dramatically improve herd management and is building a system using sensors, networking, and cloud computing.

"With the world's population growing and prosperity increasing, sustainable milk production is more important than ever," Thakran said. "At the same time, rules and regulations get stricter while raw materials, labour, and energy become more expensive. With all this in mind, efficiency, sustainability, and productivity is clearly the key to success for all dairy farmers."

Ranchpal is revolutionizing the world of cow monitoring systems with a combination of IoT and Artificial Intelligence. Their system monitors each cow 24/7. "We provided an extra eye on the herd," Thakran said. "The tool shows real-time alerts via easy-to-read and colored hourly behavioral graphs on a smartphone or desktop. With great accuracy, it monitors health, fertility, nutrition, and location."

Among the many factors captured are health indicators (temperature, early-stage disease), nutrition optimization (eating and ruminating behavior), and reproduction factors (from insemination to birth).

With "red alerts" dairy farm operators can be made aware of potential problems early on and can more efficiently monitor the entire herd, down to the individual cow.

Location of the cows and the sorting of cows for breeding, calving, hoof trimming, and more is also additive to the improvement of business outcomes – helping farmers improve the quality of their milk products leading to higher revenue and lowered expenses.

"With our system, we can deliver accurate and actionable insights not only the farmers, but the nutritionists, veterinarians, and breeders, so they can collectively understand the health, reproductive and nutritional status of their cows," Thakran said, "and they can see it all from a smartphone or tablet, and from anywhere they can connect to the Internet."

The company is working with Cloud of Things, an IoT edge and cloud platform company, which is providing the connectivity and data management tools with their DeviceTone technology. Ranchpal has joined Cloud of Things' connected products startup program, which enables young companies to bootstrap fast with innovative connected products.

"Our smart neck collar sensors monitor dairy cows 24/7, 365 days a year," Thakran explained. "The installation is seamless and takes a few minutes, with no disruption in any farm operations. We chose the DeviceTone service given their similar focus on simplicity. Each neck collar sensor is automatically registered to the system and is immediately available to the application we've developed so we can literally connect each cow as we go."

"The Ranchpal solution is a genuine breakthrough for the dairy industry," said Avner Ziv, CEO of Cloud of Things. "Their system runs on advanced proprietary algorithms combining dairy science, expert knowledge, and machine learning to deliver real-time advice to dairy farmers, including continuously learning about each individual cow. We make it possible for the sensors to stay connected to the network and application so the people responsible for the health and productivity of the herd can be automatically alerted in the event of an anomaly."

When a cow is either not eating or is not ruminating properly, an alert will be given one to two days earlier before the cow becomes clinically sick. In-depth insights shown in visually intuitive graphs make herd management easier and more predictive. The system also provides ongoing insights on the recovery of sick cows, enabling farmers to intervene faster. This leads to reduced medical expenses and labor, fewer cow losses, and higher milk production.

The Find my Cow tool that uses a locator to make it easier on dairies with 10 to 1000+ cows to find an individual cow inside, in the barn, and outside on pasture. This feature is fully integrated with modules fertility, health, and nutrition. After receiving alerts, it will be a time-saving task to find cows in heat, sick cows, cull cows, and cows that are in the wrong pens.

Ultimately, it allows dairymen to spend valuable time elsewhere.

"DeviceTone is a perfect match for Ranchpal; leveraging our plug-and-play capabilities, they were able to quickly bring to the market a mature connected product in a couple of months," Ziv said. "The data architecture and standards are compatible with various farm management systems. We are proud to have RanchPal as part of our connected products startup program!"

Wireless networking is used, and with a multiview functionality, dairy farmers who use the system can authenticate any number of people involved in caring for the herd to have access to the data through a mobile app. With advanced device management features like Over-the-Air (OTA) updates, security management, and CloudSwitch™.

The company's Ranchpal for Enterprises is a cloud-based solution for large-scale dairy operations that integrates real-time sensor data, integrates farm management data, and also understands the farmers' daily routine. Based on proprietary data and algorithms, Ranchpal for Enterprises enables predictive insights on animal welfare, traceability, and sustainability targets.

Related enterprises (milk processors, feed suppliers, genetics, and pharma companies) are also part of the Ranchpal community and ongoing technology roadmap.

Avner Ziv will be part of the upcoming Frontier Conference on industrial innovation on Tuesday, April 13, and Wednesday, April 14. You can learn more about the conference here. Technology Marketing Corporation is proud to be a media sponsor of this virtual event.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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