Brave New World: Cyber-Physical Systems Create Value for Farmers

Who doesn't love news about technology in agriculture? ( MGN )

Being able to identify feed or water outages, behavioral issues or health problems quickly is critical for livestock producers. As operations become larger to meet the growing demand for animal protein, visual evaluation of individual animals becomes more difficult and time-consuming. Real-time monitoring of animals can provide valuable information to help farmers make decisions.

Daniel Berckmans, PhD, professor in the Department of Biosystems at KU Leuven in Belgium, said health challenges and other production issues can be identified more quickly with the use of visual images and sound monitors.

“We want real-time management based on the response of the animal,” he told Pig Health Today. “It’s not just about machine-to-machine communication; it’s about living organisms interacting with machines. We measure the response of humans, plants and animals — not just for monitoring but for active controls.”

Berckmans has been involved in many research studies, including real-time sound analysis of pigs where a machine captures 22,000 samples per second – that’s 6.6 million samples in day. One number is sent to the owner every five minutes. If pigs are coughing frequently, the caregiver will know treatment is needed.

He has also used visual monitors of pigs’ water usage to measure health, Berckmans said. A camera zooms in when a pig uses the drinking nipple and measures the duration of the visit. A real-time image is captured each second for 43,000 images per day per pen. One number is sent to the farmer every 30 minutes. He said the margin of error was 200 ml over 13 days for a 92% accuracy rate.

“It’s not about the data; it’s about relevant information,” Berckmans said. “That’s where the value is.”

Cyber-physical systems that comprise interacting digital, analog, physical and human components will be technology- and value-driven, he said. He believes it will fundamentally change how people do business, within agriculture and in general.

“It’s not about one technology versus another,” Berckmans added. “It’s about collaboration and creating value for the farmer and other stakeholders.”


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