On a small rural dairy farm in Waynesboro, Ga., dairy cows roam with trackers that use artificial intelligence technology, thanks to the help of a Netherlands startup and engineers at Google.
Seven Oaks Dairy, a family-owned grassfed diary farm, has deployed AI technology and a machine-based tracker and app called Ida to track livestock health, analyze the farm’s herd, optimize food production and monitor grass growth and other vital data. The farm is the first of its kind in the U.S. to adopt this type of technology, though it’s been implemented at more than 20 farms around the world, including farms in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Asia.
Ida, which was developed by Netherlands-based startup Connecterra, uses TensorFlow, an open-source software developed by Google.
Richard Watson, the owner of Hart Agriculture and Seven Oaks Dairy, contacted engineers at Google after learning about the technology from a mutual friend. Seven Oaks Dairy is the largest single source supplier of grassfed milk in the U.S., he said.
“We have just implemented it,” Watson said. “It’s been running now for three months I should say, so we’re relatively new to the technology but the capabilities are very exciting to us and we’re certainly looking forward to what it can do over time.”
State Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black said he saluted Google and Connecterra for choosing to launch this industry-changing technology in Georgia.
“The information gained through this application will help equip family dairy farmers to hone their business and stewardship practices as they continue to produce nutritious and wholesome products for all of us,” he said.
Ida works as an aid to farmers to efficiently track their livestock, as the number of cows at remaining dairy farms increase to accommodate for farms closing around the country over the last several decades.
“[Google and Connecterra] spotted this opportunity that if they can monitor the physical state of these cows in a dairy farm, they could perhaps identify actionable information earlier than what was previously possible. [This way,] farmers can sort of keep better tabs on the flows of the cattle, [translating] that into better productivity, better health for cows, and better business for farming,” Sandeep Gupta, a product manager for TensorFlow, told Atlanta Inno.
With the help of Ida, farmers will be able to identify patterns that are difficult to track with the naked-eye alone, such as disease, feeding, heat stress, efficiency and possibly the birth of new calves in the future.
“[The power] of AI comes in by having this rich history of experience and then converting that into tools that can automatically find these things for you,” Gupta said.
Like all AI technology, Ida is equipped with a learning component that will run on data from the cows and feedback from the farmers in order to improve accuracy, Gupta said.
“It’s these sort of aspects of learning from data and getting better, and really developing very powerful methods which otherwise either require a lot of expertise, or they just require the sort of data that you can’t really visually see, which is the groundbreaking thing here,” he said.
As an open-source software library for dataflow programming, TensorFlow has the ability to help businesses across industries, not just dairy farmers.
“We at Google wouldn’t have necessarily have thought of this application…but that’s exactly the strength of something like this,” Gupta said.