IoT to Milk the Dairy Industry: an Upgrade to Farming


It is the year of our Lord 2018 and you have probably heard about the fourth industrial revolution at this point. However, the name they used was probably something fancier and techier, the new buzzword to follow: Industry 4.0. This term is often used to refer to a new step in production, further than the computerization and automatization of the processes: using data gathered by devices to control and optimize their output and using the Internet of Things, or IoT, to connect all the information and elements together. People tend to link the word to big factories and electronic-related products (think Tesla cars or huge manufacturers in China), but the truth is that more traditional industries can equally benefit from these mechanisms.

During 2016,  Agtech – a clipping for “agriculture technology”, but used for the whole primary sector –, received a huge $3.2bn investment, which is enough proof to notice this is the way to go for the agriculture and cattle industries. Although some feel new technologies threaten workers and making humans dispensable, IoT is actually more likely to create jobs, and make workers be more efficient at them.

IoT can help both measure environmental factors such as humidity or temperature, and track the cattle in different ways, from weight and body temperature to heart rate, daily activity, food intake, location through a mesh net… In the case of the dairy industry, it can also measure milk yield and quality. All this data is relevant enough on its own to learn about the cows’ wellbeing, but all combined with environmental findings provide valuable insights that can help the farmers maximize their return of assets (ROA) and return of investment (ROI). Being able to predict the cows’ oestrus, helping to prevent heat stress in the cattle, or knowing which breed lines produce more and better milk are factors that keep farmers only a few code lines away from profit.

Using IoT to improve production

Although Bluetooth devices can help track this information, it is the Internet of Things that can create a real “smart cow”, reducing the time and manpower to collect all the data, and putting it in a cloud space that makes its processing and sharing easy and happening in almost real time. There are several companies all around the world that have already noticed the benefits they can get thanks to IIoT (Industry Internet of Things). Huawei and China Telecom have developed an NB-IoT device to identify the cows’ oestrus, while in Ireland, Moocall and Vodafone have worked on an IoT-based solution to identify and monitor the calving based on the tail’s motion. Fujitsu, Telecom Italia and Conecterra are also among the ones working on the development of an IoT-focused approach on farming.

The primary sector, and the dairy industry in particular, is a huge niche ripe for technological companies and telcos to exploit and we are likely to see it grow and optimize immensely in the following years thanks to IoT and other technological implementations. When interviewed regarding their interest in new technologies and the application of IoT, over 50% of US cow farmers asked expressed their interest in the matter, but only a 10% of the whole lot actually use them. There is therefore a lot of room for this to expand, and even more to raise interest when more and more success stories reach the sector. It is only a matter of time, but it is a fact that IoT is here to milk the dairy industry.