11 Ways Technology Is Transforming Indian Dairy Industry Forever (#3 Is About Drones!)

11 Ways Technology Is Transforming Indian Dairy Industry Forever
11 Ways Technology Is Transforming Indian Dairy Industry Forever

In the past few years, the Indian dairy industry has received a tremendous boost through technology-driven products, services and solutions, the credit for which deservingly goes to agricultural and dairy startups.

Some of the technologies are already in practice in India, albeit the adoption is still quite low while many others are yet to penetrate the industry. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that technology is playing a key role in modernising the Indian dairy industry. Let’s take a look at some key new-age dairy technologies:

Health Tracking Devices for Cattle

Health disorders reduce the productivity, longevity and reproductivity of cattle. Every year, farmers cough up huge amounts of money on their cattle’s health and wellness. However, thanks to wearable animal gadgets which are akin to human fitness trackers, farmers can track, monitor and manage cattle’s health, nutrition, behaviour, pregnancy, milking frequency, milk production anomaly and activity level in real-time. These smart animal trackers can be implanted in the cattle’s ears, tail, legs, neck or any part of the body.

Last year, Karnataka government had implanted GPS-enabled digital chips in the ears of 56 lakh animals across the state to track their health and early diagnosis of medical condition. Some of the companies that have developed smart cattle health tracking devices are SmaXtec, Cowlar, Moocall, Smartbow, Stellapps, etc.

Robotic Milking Machines

Traditionally, cows have always been milked manually by hands. This is not only a time-consuming activity but also has labour cost associated with, thereby increasing the price of milk. Robotic milking machines are enabling farmers to eliminate the pressure on physical labour, maintain a hygienic milking process, milk the cows anytime of the day instead of following a fixed schedule and improve the milk production.

The robotic milking machines have arms or cups with sensors that can be attached individually to cows’ teats. The sensors can detect whether the cow or which of its teat is ready for milking or not. Once the milking starts, the machines can also identify impurities, colour and quality of milk. If the milk is not fit for human consumption, it is diverted to a separate container. The machines can also automatically clean and sanitize the teats once the task is over.

Raghava Gowda from India has developed a low-cost, non-electric milking machine for cows. Some other startups which have introduced automated milking systems are miRobot, GEA, DeLaval, Fullwood Packo and Lely among many others.

Cattle Monitoring Drones

Farmers are required to keep a manual vigilance whenever the livestock moves out of the farm for grazing. There are high chances of the cattle getting lost, stolen or being attacked by other animals. The cattle monitoring drones can keep track of the cattle and herd them back from fields to barns. Some drones are equipped with thermal sensing technology, which helps to track the cattle from the heat of their bodies. Drones can also capture the pictures of pasture areas and relay information as to whether these are suitable for cattle grazing.

A number of companies such as TRITHI Robotics, Dronitech, Sagar Defence Engineering, DJI Enterprise and Sunbirds have made headway in building commercial drones for various purposes, including for agriculture and livestock management.

Product Traceability for Customers Through Blockchain

These days, customers like to know the journey of their dairy products from farm to table. This calls for end-to-end supply chain transparency to enhance the trust of customers. An increasing number of dairy manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders are leveraging blockchain technology to give real-time data about their products to customers. This is done by putting a QR code on the packaging which customers can scan on their mobile devices to get information on the origin of the milk – how and where it was collected and packed, how old it is, what kind of transportation and cold milk chain facilities were used, etc.

The Kerala government in India is leveraging blockchain technology to streamline purchase and distribution of milk, fish and vegetable in the state. The international food giant Nestle has tied-up with Australian startup OpenSC to deploy blockchain technology in to improve its dairy supply chain. French supermarket Carrefour sells its micro-filtered full-fat milk in bottles with a QR code.

Some of the startups operating in food biotech are StaTwig, Ripe, AgriLedger, TE-Food and Foodcoin.

Milk Freshness

Milk is a highly perishable product. In spite of treating it with pasteurization, freezing and preservation processes, it has a tendency to go stale. Millions of tons of milk turns stale before timely consumption and goes waste. Efforts are also being consistently made to increase the shelf life of milk without adding additives or preservatives.

Technology is now making it possible to detect the freshness of milk and store it for a longer period of time. Australia-based food technology company Naturo has developed a technology that can keep natural milk fresh in the refrigerator for at least 60 days without using any additives or preservatives. US scientists have pioneered a new pasteurization technique which increases shelf life of fresh milk from 13 days to 40 days without changing its taste or nutritional value. Back home in India, IIT Guwahati scientists have developed a smartphone-app aided paper sensor kit that can test the freshness of milk and inform how well it has been pasteurized. This kit can come quite handy in large kitchens, milk collection centres and milk bars.

Automated CattleTraffic Management 

It can be an extremely tedious task to manage and move cattle to milking stalls and back to barns. There is also a risk of injuries to the cattle. Automated cattle traffic management system has computer-controlled gates which opens and closes electronically. These gates can sort the livestock on the basis of their readiness to milk. The livestock ready to be milked is moved to the milking area while the others are either put in the waiting area or returned to the barns.

Companies like Delmer, Bump Gates, Fullwood Packo and Lely are known for their automatic cattle traffic systems.

Feed Management

The feed requirement of cattle depends on their health and weather. For example, a sick or pregnant cow may need more nutrition. Hot and humid weather means that cattle need more glucose in their feed.There are a number of feed technologies that produce formulated feed additives, supplements, premixes and base mixes to maintain optimal milk production throughout the year. For example, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has developed bypass protein technology to produce specially treated protein supplements that can be fed to cattle to increase milk yield and quality.

Then, there are also digital feed monitoring solutions which can help farmers detect the quality of feed, manage feed inventory and understand cattle’s feeding pattern. In fact, feed monitoring solution can help design customized diet for each cow based on the assessment of their body weight, milk quality and yield, and thereby improve fertility and productivity per cow. 

Some of the companies providing feed management solutions are Godrej Agrovat, DeLaval, Dairy Margin Tracker, etc.

Ecommerce Marketplaces

Several online B2B marketplaces such as AgroStar and Gold Farm have been launched in India to make modern equipment and advisory services available at the doorstep to farmers and dairy manufacturers on their smartphones. Many B2C platforms such as FreshVnF, WayCool and FarmLink have also emerged at a rapid pace – they pick fresh produce from farms and deliver them at the doorstep of retail customers, hotels, restaurants and cafes.

Supply Chain Technology

The Indian dairy industry supply chain is quite complex owing to its dependency on a number of factors such as storage temperature, cold chains availability, weather, perishability/shelf life, first and last-mile distance, packaging, etc. The fact that the Indian dairy industry is unorganized and fragmented also adds to the supply chain woes. However, a number of technological innovations are taking place in the dairy supply chain in India.

Take, for example, India-based supply chain startups such as Stellapps, MilkManApps and Trinetra Wireless.

Under supply chain, cold chain technology is expected to progress by leaps and bounds. The coming years will witness the rise of energy-efficient and cost-effective cold chain warehouses, cold boxes, Phase Changing Material (PCM) pads, temperature-controlled cold chain packing, refrigerated vehicles, cold chain pallet shippers, and other advanced cooling technologies. Tessol and Warehouse-India startups are making their mark in cold chain infrastructure in India.

Farm Management Technology

From accounting, finance and labour management to livestock and supply chain management, a dairy farm has to ensure that all its operations run seamlessly. Farm management software can help automate and digitize end-to-end production and operations activities. It can give a holistic view of all farm activities, manage records, generate reports and detect inefficiencies.

Stellapps, Milc Group, My Dairy Dashboard and Nedap are some of the smart farm management solutions that exist currently.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is a relatively emerging field in the dairy industry. However, it is being touted as one of the most disrupting dairy technology of the future. The potential of dairy biotechnology lies in the areas such as increasing disease resistance in livestock, scientific feeding of cows, embryo transmit technology, artificial insemination, development of new molecules and vaccines for prevention and disease management of animals, dairy enzymes/proteins/probiotics, food-grade bio-preservatives, etc.

Some of examples of dairy biotechnology products that have made headlines are animal-free ice cream by Perfect Day, livestock disease diagnostic tools by Advanced Animal Diagnostics, bovine genetics breeding by Genus ABS India, etc.

The above list of technologies is inclusive but not exhaustive. Currently, most dairy technologies face adoption barriers in India because a large percentage of the Indian dairy industry still comprises of small-scale and unorganised players who lack financial means, accessibility and expertise to deploy the technology. The good news is that dairy technological revolution has already begun in India, and it’s only a matter of time that these technologies become common.

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About The Author:

The story been contributed by Gulzar Wangde, Founder at Utpan Milk. He is building a #Dairy products startup in #Konkan (Maharashtra) which will focus on leveraging technology and best-practices to drive value across the supply chain under a Project titled “Return to the Roots.”

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