How big data and analytics could help increase milk production

7 Oct 2014

A new €446,000 collaboration between major Irish dairy producers Glanbia and Dairygold and Irish researchers will see data analytics and big data employed to help boost milk production.

The collaboration involves researchers from Waterford Institute of Technology’s TSSG, Cork Institute of Technology and Teagasc collaborating with the the dairy producers on the ‘Smart Appi’ Project.

National quotas for the production of milk will end in April 2015. This will lead to new business and technical challenges for dairy processors. The investment from Enterprise Ireland and the companies will minimise uncertainty around quality and quantity of milk being produced on farms. It will provide the processors with a way to reliably forecast variations in milk supply and has the potential to improve competitiveness and boost employment in the sector.

The work will involve building the ‘Smart Appi’ software platform to provide the processors with a way to forecast variations in milk supply over the production season.

Can big data make a big difference?

By taking data from a range of external sources, processors will be able to identify emerging trends and get a more accurate prediction of short-term and longer-term milk production and quality levels.

As the producers strive to maximise output, a key issue for processors is how to plan transport, refrigeration, processing and finished product storage capacity. This is a particularly challenging and costly problem for the processors as currently throughout Ireland there is a 10pc variance year on year of milk supply into the system with short-term (weekly) fluctuations throughout the year.

According to Eric Robson, principal investigator on the project, “The overall result will be a better return for the investment for both organisations, Glanbia and Dairygold, in relation to the overall efficient sizing of processing capacity and the optimisation of their finished product portfolio.”

Big data is one of the Irish Government’s seven disruptive reforms contained in its Action Plan for Jobs, said the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD.

“This investment of almost €445,000 from Enterprise Ireland and the companies involved – Glanbia and Dairygold – underpins their belief that data analytics can significantly impact the growth of the dairy sector leading from innovation to job creation.”

Dairy image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years