Do cows need the internet? How do new technologies change agriculture and help us take care of the environment? An innovative experience of European farmers and engineers puts cowhide collars – a kind of fitness bracelet – with a constant connection to the internet. According to farmers, these and other appliances not only improve the welfare of cows but also help in business.
Brian’s family has been at the head of a farm for three generations, but caring the dairy animals has never been straightforward. Brian receives emails from the farm that warns him of possible changes in cow’s health and fertility. The data comes from the collars that cows use: “The collar shows that there was a decrease in feed means, the mean time of rumination, or cow activity. Any of these aspects can be a sign that cow is sick or is going to be sick. The key aspect is that these collars can detect these symptoms before they are really serious, “explains Brian Weatherup.
The act of eating causes the muscles in the neck to move. Something picked up by the sensors on the leash. The collar collects and processes the data. The creators of the collars also intend to add a localization mechanism.
Milking senses measures the quantity and milk composition of each cow. Farmers can employ collected data to improve productivity and animal welfare. These devices are being tested in 24 UK farms. They are part of a European research project to make farming more efficient and sustainable.
According to Brian, 6 months after the implementation of the new technologies, production increased by 20% and cow health improved. Researchers see great potential in implementing this technology throughout the production chain.
The several farmhouses in Almería and Spain are also a place of study. One of the experimental farmhouses is equipped with several sensors that show exactly the state of the plants.
“We are trying to make simpler the collection of data through different protocols in one database over internet. So we can use AI devices and the great data technologies with this database to find some conclusions, which encompass the whole region for comparison and further improvement of work, “explains Professor Manuel Berenguel.
Soil moisture, plant weight, air composition, and other things are evaluated to help farmers produce products of better quality while optimizing irrigation and fertilizer use.
The tomatoes were picked, but the data collection continues. Here, it is possible to process 2 million pounds of tomatoes per day – a possible task due to the advancement of technology. The machines take photographs of every tomato to sort them automatically by size, color and even the level of taste.
Researchers are working to combine data from the growth and processing steps into a single database that would accompany each tomato from the farm to the store. Something that would improve food safety and help make the entire chain well-organized.
Waste from rural and urban areas often contaminate water with extreme nutrients – mainly phosphorus and nitrogen. This undermines underwater ecosystems. But the amount of nutrients is different all over the day. Land laboratories cannot measure real time changes. A laboratory underwater may be the solution.
“Instead of collecting sample and analyzing it in lab, we can keep sensor implanted in place for a long time. They can take measurements with 15-minute interval and collect a lot of data, providing high resolution data. It enables us to make an assessment of the trends that wouldn’t be noticeable if we only collect samples periodically, “says researcher Alex Beaton.
Another device, developed by another European research project, is the so-called “lab-on-a-chip” – a reasonably compact and affordable system that combines several lab functions. It is simple to use and allows you to take measurement using a single tool.
Lab-on-a-chip has liquid reagent. Optical sensor detects color changes that show the existence of certain things in water. All chemicals are stored safely inside the device.
Academic researchers work with SMEs to improve various functions of sensors, size and cost – as a device that detects hydrocarbons exist in water.
Simplifying manufacturing is a big challenge. A Danish spin-off creates extremely precise micro-sensors utilized by researchers. Every sensor is created manually with a glass tube. It is a meticulous work that requires precision and patience.
Micro-sensors can be useful for a range of tasks, from blood tests to pollution control and emission of greenhouse gases. To fulfill this potential demand, producers of micro-sensors want to adopt mass-production method replacing glass with plastic to increase the longevity of the devices for more resiliency and accessibility.
From fields and farms to the ocean floor, new technologies help us to understand our complex world.
Author Bio:I’m Saad Raja – a 26-year old UI/UX Designer from Lahore, Pakistan. I have a work experience of 5 years in the field as a freelancer.