The longer a cow stays healthy and productive, the better it is for the cow, the farmer and the dairy chain as a whole. Farmers therefore need advice on how to care for individual cows, and this requires weighing up all the factors involved. The Smart Dairy Farming (SDF) project shows how real-time sensor data in a complex chain increases sustainability. But companies can also use it to better manage their returns. See also "data as a foundation for circular agriculture".
For many years, the dairy farming sector has been collecting very detailed information about the cow and the farm processes on a dairy farm. This data provides insight into milk production, the health of the animals and their reproduction. On this basis, work instructions are drawn up that are intended in particular to extend the life expectancy of a cow and to optimise business processes. These systems have already led to improvements in animal welfare, but the information was only being collected at herd level and analysis took a lot of time. As a result, it was sometimes difficult to intervene quickly.
TNO works with Wageningen University and dairy producers CRV, Agrifirm and Friesland Campina to improve this. This is how the Smart Dairy Farming project came into being. Our starting point was to build an overarching system in which not only more information was collected, but also in a way that was accepted by the various parties in the production chain. And that is now happening in real time, so immediately and directly from the cow shed. In this way, the farmer can, for example, determine at a level of accuracy to an hour when a cow can best be inseminated.
TNO helps partners in various sectors to use each other's data in an efficient and secure manner. We do this with technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. This will enable us to better analyse processes and develop new services in the dairy sector. Business-sensitive information is shared in our system, but is not just visible to all and sundry. The data is encrypted and used to allow all parties in the sector to make better choices. Increasingly, this is even done automatically.
Everyone remains the owner of their data and this data is only shared with the owner's permission. It is only accessed by our technology in a way that fully complies with strict privacy legislation. TNO brings parties together, develops the architecture based on the requirements of the sector and uses knowledge about sensors and models. In this way, we make clear the added value of data sharing and ensure that competing companies also join forces.
Our industry partners and the farmers themselves recognise the added value of this way of data sharing. This enables each party to better coordinate its production process and contribute as efficiently as possible to the sustainability and health of the animal. In this way, we can save costs today and meet tomorrow’s demand. However, this project is still in its infancy. TNO is also working with other parties to involve the entire milk production chain in this system.
If we are to continue to meet the demands of the future, without being held hostage by them, then we have to turn to digitalisation.