IoF2020 Dairy Trial Meeting

By Kees Lokhorst & Pieter Hogewerf -

The Dairy Trial group met in Melle, Belgium on September 19th and 20th. The meeting was hosted by ILVO who is also actively involved in the Grazing Cow Monitor use case. A multi-disciplinary and multi-national group of companies (Qlip, Sensolus, Connecterra, 365Farmnet), research organisations (ILVO, University of Strathclyde, Wageningen Livestock Research, Inagro) and IoF2020 experts (BioSense, ATB, Unparallel) discussed the four use cases thoroughly and tried to learn from each other. Although the use cases are already implemented on some farms the farmers were not invited yet to participate in the discussion. The Dairy Trial use cases concentrate their efforts on monitoring of grazing cows, giving farmers insights and early warnings on oestrus and rumination and remote milk quality checks in dairy processing.

The uses cases have all been successful in deploying their minimun viable products in the first period. The Herdsman is installed at two farms in the UK and the Happy Cow on three different dairy farms in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Installation issues were solved and user experiences are being collected. First results of the key performance indicators already show some improvements. The grazing monitoring system is installed at the experimental research institute and at one practical farm. A lesson learned from this installation is that there is a need for a ‘do it yourself’ implementation routine (cost saving) for the beacons and collars that have to be installed. But the question then is how to make the system 100% safe and who takes responsibility if the farmers themselves are responsible for the installation? 

A recurrent issue in the discussion is to become aware of the real needs of end-users, availability of proper IoT solutions and appropriate business models. Especially the real user needs and the business models require extra attention in the coming period. In research and product development we tend to focus on technological challenges. Of course, in the Dairy Trial we also struggle with battery life, network connectivity, reliability of the signals and calibration of the sensors, but we have to see it in relation to the user needs. A quote from Qlip is illustrative ‘Maintaining Quality is not only measuring! Measuring should be part of a correct quality assurance protocol, that has to be maintained/updated and safeguard (correct) application of the protocol’. At the EuroTier 2018 livestock fair in November the use cases will be present in the 365Farmnet stand to discuss with farmers their expectations and needs. You can register yourself here.

A common issue is the visualisation of information: What kind of dashboard is appreciated by end-users? One characteristic of IoT is that it makes it possible to have remote insights at all time. In the meeting a variety of needs and possible solutions were discussed. It was interesting to see that the perspectives also differed. From a product or service the dashboard might look different than when the service is fully integrated in the farming system. The Herdsman use case e.g. has to deal with a variety of data coming from different systems and has to rely on e.g the presence of an automatic milking system and a farm management system.

A common identified challenge is that location awareness should be integrated in more use cases. It is central for the Grazing Cow Monitor use case, but it can give additional functionality and value in the Herdsman and Happy Cow use cases. Subsequently, location awareness can also benefit the Remote Milk Quality use case where it is essential to trust the measuring system.
Naturally, also in this meeting discussions on data ownership and privacy took place. It is very difficult to tackle this on individual use case level, and it was good to hear that there is a new IoF2020 work package on this topic.


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