Robotics and artificial intelligence. Cows have emotions, and latest research has found that a happy cow is a better milk producer than one that is under stress.
But the question is, how can dairy farmers read an individual bovine animal that is not known for its facial expression. How can they find out whether a cow is happy, amid a herd that can sometimes number in the tens of thousands?
The answer, a professor in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, believes is in AI and robotics.
Richard Voyles sees these two technologies as the key to giving dairy farmers in-depth data on the status of their herd, including details like illness or anxiety.
“In crop agriculture, we don’t care about individual ears of corn or grains of wheat compared to an entire field. But we care about individual cows or pigs. Each individual animal eats differently and gets sick differently. The point is, treating animals well increases productivity by as much as 15%. It’s a substantial increase.”
The problem is that unlike a field of corn, it is near impossible to determine the health of a herd of cows just by flying over them with a drone.
With that in mind, Voyles is looking at the problem from the inside out.
He is working on robotic pills that could be ingested by the cows. These small robots are designed to be mobile, and would have movement between each of the four stomach chambers in a cow where they could get a sense at all levels of what is going on there.
And if we remove robotics from the equation, these pills always end up in the wrong place.
Researchers and animal scientists are working with Voyles on a new locomotion methodology for the robots. The current prototypes are larger and made out of polymers so that they don’t dissolve in the stomach acids, but work is underway to make them suitable for livestock.
Not to mention, this idea goes beyond just a business point of view.
There is also potential for a big global impact in terms of ecology and environment, in terms of land and water use as well.
More power to these guys!