TSSG Project a Finalist at Innovation Arena – 86th National Ploughing Championships

Mohit Taneja (MSc Student) and John Byabazaire (Masters Student)

Mohit Taneja (MSc Student) and John Byabazaire (Masters Student)

The National Ploughing Championship is one of Europe’s largest outdoor agricultural trade exhibitions. Held in Screggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly from September 19th to 21st 2017, the 86th edition was the most successful Championships ever with a record-breaking 291,500 attendees over three days.

Organized by the National Ploughing Association (NPA) in association with Enterprise Ireland and The Irish Farmers Journal (IFJ), a key part of the Championships is the NPA Innovation Arena, which aims to recognize and reward outstanding innovation in the agricultural sector.  Each year the NPA Innovation Arena receives extensive media coverage as the world looks to Ireland to lead innovation for the agriculture sector by improving farming practices in Ireland and beyond.

Our Emerging Networks Lab (ENL) team from TSSG comprising of Mohit Taneja, John Byabazaire and Dr. Alan Davy were selected to showcase their project ‘SmartHerd’ at the Innovation Arena this year, and progressed on to be the finalists in the competition. SmartHerd demonstrates how to use data collected by pedometers attached to cows to predict events related to animal health in real time leveraging the technique of Fog Computing. SmartHerd is focused in particular on the issue of lameness in dairy cattle.

There was also an innovation boot camp organized for selected finalists before the main event, with a range of talks from Enterprise Ireland and other Industry Partners related to funding and innovation. There was also a visit to Tullamore Farm (an Irish Farmers Journal mixed grazing demonstration farm), which involved additional talks by people from IFJ, and a display of machinery and miscellaneous farm demonstrations. This was followed by a feedback and face-to-face talk with mentors assigned to each finalist for an exchange of experiences, thus helping entrants to present their work and product to a large audience base. It was also useful for obtaining feedback on further directions for the research project.

The Innovation Arena at NPC thus presents an excellent venue to showcase research in front of industry experts, farmers and public alike.

A little more about the project:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about connecting people, processes, data and things. Dairy farms have all the constraints of a modern business— they have a fixed production capacity, a herd to manage, expensive farm labour and other varied farm-related processes to take care of. Our project on SmartHerd involves all the buzz words of today— Internet of Things, Cloud, Analytics, Fog Computing and Data Science. But more importantly, how a little ingenuity can transform even some of the oldest industries of the world.

The farmer works hard from 5am till late in the evening– milking, feeding and maintaining the farm; so, it is a challenge to monitor the wellbeing of hundreds of cows in the dairy farm in real time. Could technology help? The methods for looking after animal welfare are based on millennia of human experience and grounded on observational methods to analyse animal behaviour by visual observation for some kind of anomaly or potential health-issue.

So, it all started with a question: ‘why can’t there be a better way to do it’?

We engineered a system that involves installing pedometers on each cow’s feet, and then, with IBM as industry partner, built a microservices approach based application following Fog-Cloud computing paradigm, which is further supported by IBM’s BlueMix cloud platform, that actually analyses cattle behaviour in real time and provides critical alerts to the farmer on a mobile phone. Already on trial at a farm based locally in Waterford, it helps the farmers to manage their livestock better, and look out for their well-being. While we are really just starting to scratch the surface of what might be possible with IoT and constant monitoring of farm animals, it’s helping us make better decisions about the way we use our resources, and the way we manage our economy.

“Every company is a data company, even the ones that you least expect .”The Data is transforming many industry sectors including Dairy; and presents us with an opportunity to predict, control and prevent certain undesirable events. We really do have treasure trove of data, and are now figuring out what to do with it.”