Cargill, one of the world’s biggest agricultural companies, is tapping Big Data to help US farmers make their cows more comfortable – and more productive.
The 152-year-old Minneapolis-based company recently said that it plans to offer its Dairy Enteligen application in the US in the next several months, after introducing it in Italy and Spain. The platform lets consultants and farmers analyse reams of information, from cows’ living conditions to diet and milk productivity on smart tablets and computers.
Cargill is part of the growing wave of companies looking to tap into the proliferation of data that’s sweeping across industries, from automotive to telecommunications and agriculture. Deere & Co., the world’s biggest producer of farm equipment, recently said that it closed on its $305 million acquisition of Blue River Technology, Inc. – a Silicon Valley-based company that specialises in smart machines. In its annual report last month, Cargill said that it aspires to 'change the game' within its industry with digitalisation and analytics.
The market for precision agriculture – encompassing analytics, drones, digitisation and other technologies – may be worth $240 billion by 2050, as farmers look for ways to boost productivity as population growth lifts food demand, according to Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
'The surge in agtech investment has brought the agriculture industry to the threshold of a new agricultural revolution,' Decker Walker, Torsten Kurth and Matt Westerlund, analysts at Boston Consulting Group, Inc., wrote in a July report. 'The major sources of revenue are changing and new profit pools are being created.'
"Cargill’s seen an 11.7% increase in milk production in Italian farms using the new application, along with lower production costs," Ricardo Daura, global product-line director in Cargill’s animal-nutrition digital-insights business, said by phone recently.
“There are multiple things that affect how many gallons of milk a cow produces,” Daura said. “If animal welfare is optimal, then farmers will see higher productivity.”
Daura said that the company is researching the use of sensors and artificial intelligence as it updates the application.
Dairy farmers have long had access to reams of data, but it hasn’t been widely collated, Chantal van der Meijde, the company’s global category manager for dairy technology, said in an interview.
"The company’s focusing on similar efforts in other segments, including aquaculture," said SriRaj Kantamneni, managing director of digital insights in Cargill’s animal-nutrition business.
“What we’re really chasing after as a digital business is a connected system,” Kantamneni said.