We are living in an era of staring at a smartphone. Sometimes you may miss the times when we looked around more, noticed wonderful things, talked to each other, rustled book pages, touched things and not screens… Well, the younger generation does not understand the concern of being too digital, of course.
But frankly speaking, looking back in time it becomes clear that this technical revolution, which agriculture, and particularly the dairy sector that is dearest to me, have gone through is something truly great. I still recall the old Soviet dairy farms, the best of them were proudly producing 3,000 kg of milk per cow. Animals used to panic at the sight of an unfamiliar human. At the same time, it was all about very hard physical work, and tonnes of papers to fill in for reporting. So, the people involved did not really have the time or energy for anything else. As they reached my current age, they were already quite sick and worn out.
It now feels very different to enter a barn. Happy cows are monitored in all possible ways just to make sure their happiness is absolute and full.
They run up to you for kisses and hugs. They love their milking robots and smart feeding equipment, and even experience some democracy within the herd (being duly dehorned of course). People also look much more relaxed and happier, and they have time for themselves.
And it is not only about what is happening in the barn. There is also a huge amount of work being done “behind the scenes”. The industry experts support the farmers in their balancing between the trends of the consumer markets and profitability.
Advisors, vets, AI technicians, hoof trimmers, classifiers – they all have much better and smarter tools for doing their crucial job, too.
Making it real required a huge technological shift which is a part of the ongoing digital transformation. It has been amazing to see how the initial separate tools and later platforms rapidly evolved into a tremendous ecosystem here in the Nordic countries, and how the same processes happen globally.
New sensors or monitoring tools seem to appear every day. Collecting and analysing data from new sources to ensure proper data-driven decision making requires a more innovative approach than ever before. Creating smart tools within this ecosystem shows that the only way to do it is a tough cooperation between all industry players. That is why so much effort is put nowadays into creating unified data protocols globally, and e.g. ICAR has been working on the animal data exchange standards. This means we are getting closer to creating global ecosystems.
Most importantly, this kind of co-innovation and co-creation opens new opportunities for us all to produce happiness – for cows, for farmers, for experts, for consumers through improving common wellbeing without any compromise on our sustainable future.