Dairy farming is considered as one the core functions of agriculture for long-term production of milk. Large scale dairy farms are utilizing modern and innovative technology for automating the milking system and maintaining the health parameters of the cattle. Today, dairy farmers focus more on precision farming by monitoring and developing a database for information provisioning and capturing competitive market data. To ensure sustainability and remain competitive in the market, dairy farmers need to monitor variety of data sources like cattle feeding, calving, nutrition, insemination, and the process of milk production. However, they also face several challenges such as:
- Breeding infrastructure and genetics: The success of dairy farming is mostly attributed to the rising number of animals, and not productivity. When the resources are limited, it is imperative to increase the productivity per animal. There is a high demand for good animal genetics, breeding infrastructure and advance breeding methods such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
- Animal feed and fodder: There is an acute and ever-growing shortage of green fodder and good quality feed. The growing trend of high breed animals is creating a huge demand for good quality feed and fodder to cater the dietary requirement of milking animals. Also, in order to avoid many health and nutrition related complications, prophylactic approach is driving the use of feed pre-mixes.
- Animal health: Good healthcare and animal disease diagnostic solutions are required to address the gap. As high yielding animals demand extra care, the focus on animal health is driving this segment.
- Farm mechanization: There is growing shortage and high cost of labor. Hence, farmers are adopting mechanization techniques to meet the global milk production.
- Cold chain infrastructure: There is a lack of adequate infrastructure of chilling plants and bulk coolers to prevent contamination and spoilage at the grassroots level. This segment is bound to see growth opportunities with the government and private sector investing heavily to secure sufficient procurements.
- Power availability: Many chilling plants suffer due to shortage of electricity and do not run optimally, leading to poor quality and shelf life of milk. The opportunity within this segment could be solar powered milk chillers.
- Quality testing infrastructure and trained work force: Adequate quality testing infrastructure is not available at milk collection centers. The problem is compounded by the lack of trained manpower to undertake quality testing. At the consumer end, the demand for safe food is emerging fast and thus creates high opportunity.
- Processing equipment and food ingredients: Growing consumer awareness and shifting lifestyle are forcing processors to move towards product innovation and creating a demand for high-quality equipment and various food ingredients.
- Waste handling: The environmental challenges of dairy farms are related to disposal of dung and urinal wastewater. Poor handling and disposal of dung and wastewater cause water pollution and odor problems.
- Byproduct handling: A number of byproducts such as whey, buttermilk, skim milk, and ghee residue (GR) and derived byproducts like caseins, caseinates, lactose, whey proteins (WP), etc. are produced by the dairy industry. Attempts have been made globally to utilize these byproducts because of their high nutritive value. Dairy plants are still confronted with the problem of byproduct utilization because of lack of adequate technology and high cost of new technologies.
Impact of IoT on smart farming
Today, Internet of Things (IoT) is making a significant impact on milk production. Global milk production to meet the demands of the growing population needs to be enhanced with technology. With this technology, farmers can enhance and improve several dairy related activities such as ascertaining the right time to milk cows, increasing the shelf life of the milk and so on.
In dairy farming, the Internet of Things (IoT) plays a crucial in the monitoring of resources by connecting multiple and heterogeneous objects in mixed dairy farms (which produce milk from cattle and cultivate feed grain for livestock), such as buildings, machinery and vehicles or even living organisms like cattle. The IoT Sensor and Edge Computing (EC) enable resource monitoring and traceability in the value chain, allowing producers to optimize processes, provide the origin of the produce and guarantee its quality to consumers.
IoT technology leverages multiple sensors for collecting various data points and data transmission with low power and bandwidth for communication. Adaption of smart sensors and techniques (data sensing methods like pressure sensing, volumetric sensing, sensing schedules etc.) help to improve resource efficiency, are environment-friendly, enable transparency and data security. These techniques maintain a real-time view of the milk levels, monitor the health of the cattle, warehouse management, and safe transportation access.
IoT platforms and integrated AI engines, gateways, LPWA networks and smart sensors push the industry into a real revolution. The latest technologies are being introduced to automate many of the processes. IoT and data-driven techniques are creating greater opportunities for smart dairy farming. IoT can support farmers with wearable sensor devices to keep them aware of the status of every animal. The sensor-based system can effectively and correctly detect the illness of the cattle before it affects the milk production. IoT serves as an important foundation for cattle breeding by tracking real-time cattle information such as activity, temperature, and pulse. This crucial information can then be used to conduct a thorough analysis to determine cattle oestrus. Increase in milk yield, reduced labor and medicine treatment costs, and increase in the revenue of dairy farms are the most exciting benefits of this technology. This technology has also received close attention from dairy product enterprises and animal breeding initiatives.
IoT and AI based technological methods can be used to minimize the negative factors and enhance those factors that positively affect the production. For instance, an artificial intelligence (AI) model developed based on IoT sensors in milking systems can provide data to help farmers determine when the cattle should be milked or to help the farmer change the feeding pattern. These data can be further enhanced to maintain quality of milk and help to understand production. The state of the art framework by combining IoT sensor, IoT platform and AI solutions should be focused on different aspects of smart dairy farming to assist the farmers increase the milk yield by using different techniques and innovation.