Get ready for the ‘internet of cows’

SomaDetect Inc. of Fredericton, N.B., is preparing to deliver commercial systems this fall that will test milk and use AI to provide insights to maximize a farmer’s profitability, dairy farmers monitor their herds through the “internet of cows.”

Sensors installed at each milking stall identify each cow, test their milk and quickly provide farmers metrics such as protein and fat counts, indicators of disease, hormones that manage reproduction and antibiotic residuals.

“We are in a fourth revolution in agriculture and AI is absolutely critical,” said co-founder Bethany Deshpande.

However, Deshpande said the use of the technology is at an early stage where farmers are just starting to understand its power and the potential difference it can make on their operations.

“A lot of farmers have been demanding better technology, demanding better products for a long time and I think AI is huge part of how they’re going to get that.”

Montreal-based Motorleaf Inc. has developed a system that acquires data from indoor growing operations and applies artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms to identify growing patterns in the greenhouse, which can then be used to predict the size of future harvests.

It’s like giving farmers a virtual assistant, said co-founder and CEO Alastair Monk, who formed the company two years ago with Ramen Dutta, an agricultural engineer.

“All of those ingredients are going to get mixed up into soup and out the other end comes an algorithm specifically for that greenhouse … so they can make smarter decisions instead of rolling the dice and risking what happens after they make those decisions.”

Yield forecasts are crucial for growers because they indicate how much produce will be available for pre-sold contracts.

Traditional counting methods can be off by 20 to 30 per cent because farmers estimate the yield for the entire crop after counting samples of vegetables, leaves and flowers in a small area.