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Monday, March 01, 2021
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Technologies for transforming dairy industry

Samarth Setia

Though India is the largest milk producer in the world, yet the dairy sector is managed conventionally. With changing times, adoption of new technologies will revolutionize milk industry in India.

Milk and Indians share a deep bond. With technology evolving and integrating seamlessly into our lives, it has stepped its foot into the dairy industry. The inclusion of technology in the dairy sector has transformed the unorganized industry into an organized one where the entire process from production to delivery and to the projection of profits can be gauged. Before, technology had stepped in dairy we had milk man (doodhwalas) who carried tins of milk to deliver at our doorstep with mothers being inquisitive how much water has been mixed with milk.

n 1970, a massive revolution, ‘operation flood’ was launched which showcased India’s self- dependence to produce milk. Since 2017-2018 Indian dairy farming has travelled a long path and India went on to become the largest milk producer in the world with a production of 176.3 million tonnes. But, according to the economic survey, more than 50% of the dairy surplus is still managed by the unorganized sector. With the unorganized sector yet to accept technology in the dairy business, technological developments in dairy can aid India in becoming the undisputed leader and can adequate the blooming population of India.

Here are certain advancements that are reshaping the conventional dairy business. The below list of technologies is certainly inclusive but not exhaustive.

Health tracking devices

Healthy cattle are an asset to a farmer. Every year, a farmer shells out a substantial amount of his income for the weal of cattle. Cattles in pink of health ensures productivity and longevity. Smart GPS enabled cattle trackers resembling human fitness trackers are placed at the collar of the cattle, ears, legs or any part of the body to check the activity level in real-time. The sensors present can detect the cow’s heat based on the animal’s altered movement, thus offering a way to help farmers understand whether the cows can conceive or not.

 The milking robots

Yes, the cows are now being milked through robots unlike earlier when the milk man (Gwalas) used to milk the cows at the dawn with their bare hands thus putting the hygiene of the milk questionable. The automatic milking machines have arms or cups attached to cow’s teats and sensors present can detect if it is ready for milking. With this, it gives the flexibility of milking at any time of the day than following a fixed schedule.

The drone technology

Cattle monitoring drones are being used for vigilance when livestock goes out for grazing. There is a high probability of cattle being lost, stolen or eaten up by other animals. These drones are armed with thermal sensing technology which can keep an eye on the number of cattle gone to graze and how many have returned to the shed. This technique can also detect probable pictures of grazing areas.

Milk inventory managing platform

The milk man (doodhwala) who delivers milk at our doorstep could never manage their dairy inventory properly. There is no systematic tracking process of how many litres a certain customer bought or a day customer didn’t brought milk. This led to topsyturvy management of inventory and creates confusion while taking monthly payments from customers. Now, with the availability of SaaS cloud-based inventory platform, which is a one-step solution to worries of a dairy supplier who can now track the daily demand of buyers in litres, no. of days litres unsupplied, pending payments and profit projection. Tracing the milk by blockchain technology

QR codes are marked on the milk packaging, scanning the QR code has allowed the consumers to know better about the milk like its origin, how and where it was collected? How old it is? Which plant it was processed? Hence, it is giving real-time data to its consumers. This technology can alert if the vehicle has stopped at a place for too long as there can be chances of adulteration of milk.

 Emotional well-being for cows

This is yet to come to India, but in countries like Russia, they believe milk productivity is directly proportional to a healthy state of mind. So, along with cattle’s physical health emotional wellbeing is also being taken care of. Believe it or not but the bovine population is made to wear VR headsets which are simulated with a unique software simulating a summer field’ depending on cattle-vision research. The results seem to be interesting, after the trial, it was found that there was a decrease in anxiety and an overall emotional mood of the herd. Like humans, music therapy was also tested with the cattle which ensured better sleep and productivity.

Facial recognition, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning

Every cattle has distinctive facial features that are synergized with an algorithm to form a new technology called facial recognition. This technique analyses and records a cattle’s facial features from different angles and background lighting to determine a cattle’s breed, age, symptoms of diseases and prevents falling into fraud claims in the cattle insurance sector wherein the farmer claims (sends ear/ ear tag) of an insured cattle, whereas the death has been of uninsured cattle. Data Analysis, machine learning and AI further understand the movements to assess the health of the cattle or identify whether it is in heat.

 Managing the cattle traffic

Is it possible that the cows which are to be milked can be managed electronically? Yes, it is indeed possible since moving the cows from their place to the milking area can be tedious as they might get injured and then followed by veterinary expenses. Through technology, this is solved by automated computer-controlled gates which opens and closes electronically. Differentiating the cattle based on the readiness of milking can also be done with this.

 Fodder management

Weather influences the kind of fodder a cattle requires. In times of hot and humid conditions, cattle would require more glucose content in the feed. Bypass protein technology, a technique invented by National Dairy Development Board produces specially treated protein supplements that are fed to the cattle for better productivity. Digital feed monitoring solutions aides the farmers to understand the quality of feed, analyze cattle feed patterns and can suggest diet solutions basis assessing their body weight, milk yield, and quality. The adoption of technology in dairy in India is at a nascent stage. As a larger fraction of the dairy industry is still managed by small scale and unorganized sector who lack the financial scope, expertise and awareness. With the progression of time, the dairy industries of India will soon be a part of this dairy tech revolution.

(The author is the Founder of Mr. Milkman. Views expressed are personal.)