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  • Kindra Gordon, field editor

Ushering in ‘New Frontier’ for Ag

Technologies to address supply chain challenges, lack of labor and individual animal management.

Agricultural technology has advanced through the decades from horse-drawn plows to horsepower under the hood of a tractor, and now autonomous vehicles. What technology will provide the next leap forward in agriculture?

Aidan Connolly is looking at precision technology for the livestock industry and says many new tools have the potential to make ag “better.” Connolly is CEO of Cainthus, an Ireland-based computer vision technology company that develops products for monitoring feeding events and cow behavior.

He sees a “new frontier” for livestock agriculture as new technologies are developed to address and enhance supply chain challenges, lack of labor and individual animal (or acre) management. Among those new tech tools are sensors, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Sensors provide wearable technologies to monitor individual animals, instead of working from herd averages. Wearable sensors on an animal’s ears, neck, legs or tail can now track and manage a cow’s health, detect illness or disease, and monitor cow comfort and welfare. As sensor technology progresses, Connolly sees opportunities for producers to detect compromised animals and circumvent negative effects before they affect performance and production.

Artificial intelligence is being developed to sort through data and highlight information important for the producer — and eventually may have the ability to automate some decision-making based on benchmarks set by the producer. As an example, companies like Connolly’s Cainthus are developing algorithms to monitor cow activity, feeding, drinking and movement. Additionally, some companies are exploring facial recognition technology to dispense feed and specific nutrients to livestock as they come to the bunk or water trough. On the crop side, artificial intelligence is already being used to determine maturity of some fruit crops, and thus, could be useful for grain production and harvest as well.

Augmented reality allows the ability to integrate digital information with a user’s environment in real time. Commonly used to layer data on an existing map, future augmented reality technology may allow producers an alternative way to monitor and evaluate livestock. For example, wearing specialized tech goggles may allow a farmer to immediately see stats relating to each individual cow overlaid through the glasses into the farmer’s field of vision. This technology may also have applications for training employees or even guiding machinery repair. One projection calls for augmented reality to grow from a $2.4 billion industry in 2018 to $48.2 billion by 2025.

Connolly shared his vision for the future of livestock technology during the virtual Farm Journal Field Days hosted online in August 2020.

Editor’s note: Read about more technologies like this in the March 2021 issue of the Angus Journal. Subscribe today!


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