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The first ‘smart tag’ to use artificial intelligence to monitor and analyze the ‘dairy trinity’ of heat, health and feed consumption will provide dairy farmers with improved productivity, animal welfare and overall herd health, says its developer.

Already chosen by global dairy giant Danone for a trial with its farmer supply base, Ida—the Intelligent Dairy-farming Assistant—combines sensor technology, machine learning and cloud computing to convert raw data into meaningful information to act as a dairy decision-support tool.

“Heat, health and feed are the three essentials for maximum cow performance,” says Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Dutch company Connecterra.

“Ida takes what others have done with trackers and tags and creates a new category: the Intelligent Dairy-farming Assistant. We not only generate insights, but also help farmers identify what they can do to create higher efficiency farms with better animal welfare.

“Unlike existing trackers, which merely relay data to a central collection point, we built Ida as a system based on continuous learning and intelligence.”

Ida uses individual sensors to collect cow data and then – in a step further than other so-called ‘smart’ devices – sends it to the cloud for analysis. From these millions of pieces of data, Ida generates recommendations and solutions to problems – information which can be accessed via a web page, mobile phone or tablet.

“There’s a lot of noise in the agtech sector about collecting data,” points out Mr Khokhar, “but data’s useless unless you can unlock its underlying meaning and help the farmer to take action.

“So Ida goes a step further, by number-crunching all this data and turning it into useful alerts and advice. An Ida-equipped farmer doesn’t have to interpret anything. Instead, he or she receives detailed insights – based around those three essentials of heat, health and feed – into the health and well-being of the whole herd as well as individual cows.”

Ida has already ‘learned’ to detect seven different cow behaviors— eating, ruminating, idle, walking, lying down, standing and drinking—with accuracy currently running at around 90 percent and very low rates of false positives. Monitoring these behaviors allows Ida to raise an insight for a specific cow, whether related to the onset of estrus or an as-yet-unnoticed health problem.

Danone worked with Connecterra to trial Ida in an eight-month European pilot project. “Ida has had a dramatic impact on the daily operation of the health and production of the cows over the course of the pilot,” says a spokesman.

“During this period, in many case Ida alerted farmers to health concerns before any other symptoms presented themselves. Each time these findings were confirmed by vets.

“Ida has been instrumental in generating cost savings, improving reproductive efficiency and boosting overall cow welfare during the pilot study,” Danone concluded.

A farmer from The Netherlands gave an account of her own experience with Ida:

“Ida has alerted me to sick cows in the herd, even before they start showing symptoms. That’s meant I can treat them earlier, which not only reduces the veterinary costs but also allows me to bring them back into production sooner.”

Antoinette U*

Ida’s cloud-based system ensures continuous improvement, says Mr. Khokhar. “As more cows join the system—not just in the same herd, but other herds too – Ida’s accuracy increases further,” he explains.

“When Ida makes a recommendation, it learns from the farmer’s response. This allows recommendations to become even richer and more personalized over time.

“As Ida learns from new data points and new sources of data—we’re talking with partners to bring together even more data—end-users will see additional features become available.”

Ida has two pricing models, each without a hefty capital outlay: a flat-rate subscription basis of $8.75 per cow per month, or an initial outlay of $76 and a monthly cost of $5 per cow per month. The subscription includes ongoing updates, customer support and hardware maintenance. Long-term contracts with a fixed fee structure are available on a case-by-case basis.

Ida’s form factor is the familiar, tried-and-tested neck collar, which is widely used in Europe. Each cow’s tracker sends its data to one or more base stations on the farm, which in turn uploads to the cloud.

Farmers in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Spain are already using the system commercially, with feedback so far reporting savings per farm of two to three times the cost of the system.

*customer privacy request to keep full name from disclosure