The emergence of the internet of things in recent years has fired the imagination of innovators. IoT is increasingly finding innovative use in new areas, thereby opening new possibilities. One of the areas that IoT technology is now finding use in is care for farm animals.
With IoT to their aid, farm owners are maintaining data more accurately for farm animals and increasing their productivity. In addition, using IoT is also laying the foundation for precision farming.
Consumer preferences and demands are evolving, in turn forcing industries to evolve for the better. Regulations are set in place and keep evolving regularly to ensure customer satisfaction. The agricultural industry has also experienced this evolution. Consumers today want to know the origin of their products — the state of the livestock that produce the milk, the condition of the livestock at the time of slaughter to acquire meat, the medication for the animals, its effects and side effects, and so on.
Farmers, therefore, need to keep a meticulous record of the diet and medication of livestock. For example, farmers in Germany must maintain documentary details of antibiotics used (according to DART 2008; USDA 2011). Conventional means of acquisition and maintenance of data are not efficient enough to do the job. To fulfill industry requirements and consumer demands, several variables need to be rigorously monitored. IoT is emerging as a credible enabler towards these efforts.
According to the United Nations in 2013, the world’s population will grow to approximately 9.6 billion in 2050. This implies the demand for food, inclusive of the kind that originates from the agricultural industry and specifically from farm animals, will grow substantially. Therefore, it is imperative that the industry grows proportionally and farm animals are more productive.
By 2050, the world’s demand for meat is expected to reach around the following figures: 106 million tons of beef, 25 million tons of mutton, 143 million tons of pork, 181 million tons of poultry and 102 million tons of eggs.
How IoT addresses the needs
Sensors are now added to wearables to gather information from livestock to improve productivity and livestock health. Information is acquired about an animal’s behavior, health, injury, medical regime and other similar statistics, such as lactation and fertility. With the inclusion of technology, data acquisition has become simpler and more effective. Consequently, extensive data processing is possible. Scientists can collect data and improve medicine and diet regimes based on the collected information. Farmers know what to do and when to do it. For example, the sensors deployed on farms inform farmers of system failures such as ventilation system failure. In-time notification of possible failures saves lives and prevents health issues in livestock.
IoT is addressing the demands of the agricultural industry in various ways some of which are as follows:
- Improving offspring care: Monitoring the health of the offspring and the variables around it to ensure a healthy and productive livestock. Doing so reduces the numbers of lives lost due to variable factors.
- Mitigating health hazards: Sensors can detect potential health hazards such as toxic gases that might result from incompetent or failing ventilation systems. This also helps maintain livestock health. The result is an overall increase in productivity.
- Round-the-clock animal tracking: This facilitates the location of animals for larger pastures and farms.
- Leveraging fertility windows: Each animal has its own season and a specific window where maximum results are achievable. These sensors monitor livestock health and conditions so that window is not missed.
- Enhancing lactation: Sensors detect which cow needs a specific diet to improve its milk production. In addition, it also notifies about the best time to milk a specific cow.
The inclusion of IoT in agriculture is adding an exciting new dimension to agriculture and helping it evolve to cater to growing demand for food. Monitoring various small variables enables researchers and farmers to efficiently tend to the needs of their livestock. This lays the foundation of precision farming. By addressing minute needs before they develop into big challenges, the system becomes efficient and productivity steadily increases in a way that enables it to meet the ever-increasing demand for food.
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