Maybe I am crazy, and I probably am, but I had a thought. I know we have the technology available on dairy farms, but who is bold enough to put it all together? It would be amazing to see and completely revolutionary! And I truly believe this is where the future will take our industry.
One particular product got me thinking. Lely has what is called the Vector. The vector is a dairy “kitchen,” so to speak, for small feed quantities. It has a grabber on a rail that goes to all your ingredient bunks, grabs the ingredients in the order and quantity necessary, and mixes it in a little mobile mixer that goes out after mixing is complete and delivers the ration to the correct pens. Notice that I said small. These mixers are not designed for larger loads, and the delivery robot is not suited for longer distances or off-road surfaces and mud. However, what if?
Tesla is a prime example of how far we have come in the way of autonomous vehicles, and there are currently autonomous delivery trucks moving freight around not only ports but also being trialed across the country in long haul situations. So, tell me, why do we not have the same technology in the dairy industry?
The idea is simple; let’s not recreate the wheel here. Using a rail and grabber system, we could not only have a perfect ration nearly every time by eliminating human error, but it would cut front loader drive time down by nearly 90%, saving fuel and maintenance costs by about the same increment. And, if you were able to automate the load out to an autonomous delivery truck equipped with GPS, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), radar, and high-definition cameras, it would be one of the safest vehicles on the farm, delivering to the correct pen, in the correct amount, evenly in one pass. This would save not only fuel but time.
Now, I know nothing is perfect, and the more technology and moving parts you have, the more risk you have of something going wrong or breaking. I have this nightmare that if we had a set-up like this, one of the delivery trucks would drive to my house and try to shove 20,000 pounds of feed through my front door! But, what if something like this could work?
What futuristic technology would you like to see on your farm?
Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.