Within our SSIF-funded, New Zealand Bioeconomy in a Digital Age (NZBIDA) programme we are researching what a dairy farm will look like in the future and how it will use technology and data.
Digital technologies have the potential to transform New Zealand farms. And the NZBIDA research programme is using multidisciplinary teams of researchers to look at the New Zealand digital landscape and integrate its research and co-design of science solutions into our farming sector.
There is also a strong social element to the required transformation, including the adoption and use of technology. The dairy farm of the future will provide farmers (and consumers) with a wealth of information about its animals and their wellbeing. In a case study, the NZBIDA team is using a suite of sensors to record what an animal has experienced throughout a day. This information will provide insight into whether an an animal, based on temperature and activity levels, is well. Sensors can help farmers be much more proactive in spotting symptoms and stopping animals getting sick. However, there has been an explosion in the market for animal sensors in recent years. The market is confusing, so one goal is to bring clarity and provide evidence of what is useful and what is not. The sensor will produce data on temperature (heat, humidity and wind speed), respiration rate, rumen temperature, milk yield and activity with pedometers. Rumination and GPS tracking will also be used to detect interaction between animals.
The team reviewed 90 technology options to gather the data they needed. The number of sensors on the market, all offered at different price points, is a major barrier to uptake. The NZBIDA team found that farmers are unsure which products to use and how to make sense of the data they produce. The future farm research will provide an example, using a New Zealand pastoral farming context, to follow in the future.