How well is your smart farm running?

April 28, 2017 // By Steve Hughes
Big data, industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). Terms most of us associate with professional services companies, not with farming and agricultural businesses.

However, automation technologies form a critical part of modern livestock and farm management systems. Many farmers though, especially those operating small and medium sized farms, might be overlooking a critical aspect of power quality in their automated livestock farming systems.

The smart agriculture market is currently growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8 per cent and is expected to be worth $18.45 Billion by 2022, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets. The main factors driving growth include an increased adoption of technology in agriculture generally, a higher demand for food globally and assistance in monitoring livestock performance and health.

The types of automation technologies farmers now use is hugely varied, ranging from automatic feed control, milking systems, electronic identification and herd tracking, automatic drafting and gate control as well as in all areas of health, treatment, breeding and farm maintenance.

These complex systems, made up of IoT sensor-enabled devices connected to industrial computing systems provide a wealth of data for farmers to maintain the welfare of their animals while maximising yield.

 

Automatic milking

Take automatic milking systems in the dairy industry for example. Here, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are attached to a cow’s ears. Used in everything from warehousing and logistics to fridges and washing machines, RFID tags have found a useful home in the farming sector where the RFID tag communicates with a base station to provide an up to date location for each animal.

As the cow is drafted in for milking, the system logs the cow’s identity and, as the robotic milking system automatically begins to milk the cow, it continues to track real time yield against a historical record, which is then used to tailor the cow’s feed characteristics.

The data generated from an entire herd is sent to a centralised system where a single farmer overseeing the entire process can manipulate the data to forecast trends relating to yield, feed demand, breeding and medical treatment, among other things, to make informed decisions on best practice. This level of traceability afforded by smart systems is helping the farming industry to overcome years of stigma associated with many high profile incidents such as the horsemeat scandal of 2013.