Two themes clearly jumped out at the 2018 edition of EuroTier, writes Pig Progress editor Vincent ter Beek: sustainability and precision farming. He sums up what he heard and saw in this comprehensive overview.
If one picture captured the atmosphere at EuroTier 2018 well, it must be this one shown below. Signing a contract here are Dr Xiangdong Liu, vice-president of swine production at Yangxiang, China; Ruben Wegman, CEO of Nedap and Dr Jackson He, CEO of Yingzi Technologies, China. The 3 agreed to cooperate on the use of data, generated on the Chinese farms of Yangxiang, by use of equipment manufactured by Nedap and presented on Yingzi’s online platform.
The picture was taken at the 2nd day of EuroTier, held in Hanover, Germany 13-16 November 2018. It symbolises a whole range of things. Firstly: the Chinese, as most important pig nation in the world, have now definitely established themselves as major trading partner in the global pig business, having ascended to become the runner-up at EuroTier amongst exhibiting countries – 2nd to only host nation Germany.
Secondly, precision farming using data technology is rapidly gaining ground and is no longer the domain of whizzkids or developers. It is moving towards the heart of modern agriculture and I will present a few examples of that.
Thirdly, just in case this all doesn’t sound convincing – it was not only me taking the pictures of the signing of the contract. On the left, a large amount of people wanted to highlight this happening. It only goes to show that the topic is hot.
Precision farming goes hand in hand with sustainability – basically it comes down to the clever usage of sensors and algorithms to understand and interpret developments in the pig houses quicker, which allows for a more targeted, quicker and even individual approach in order to eventually work more efficiently – and sustainably.
Basically, there are 2 ways of gathering data, the 1st being non-animal related. Several clever companies have found ways to develop and apply sensors all through barns, and present results in nicely developed graphs and interactive figures – and enable the producer to respond as well. A good example of this is Farmcontrol, a Portuguese-developed smart farming system. At EuroTier, the company presented its smartbox, which can e.g. measure temperature, humidity, CO2 and water flow. It can be found in various pig, poultry and dairy farms in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Angola, to name a few.
The 2nd method of gathering data is arguably the more challenging of the 2, and that is animal-related precision farming. How does an animal behave, for instance, and how does that all compare to a previous phase? Key to a successful application of this method is a correct identification, and not surprising, even quite a lot of well-established companies have embarked on embracing technology that will get them there.
These developments go fastest in the world of dairy cows – as the investment of correct animal identification pays off most there. The cows are usually longer on-farm and identification is limited to hundreds. For instance, at EuroTier animal health company Zoetis proudly presented its Smartbow concept, including an ear tag providing information about finding cows, detecting their heat and controlling their health. In addition, animal nutrition company Cargill recently invested in these developments by showcasing Cainthus Facial Recognition for ruminants.
EuroTier will soon also jump to other continents, like Asia and South America
It is reasonable to expect that sows will be next in line, as in fact with ear tags, the precision farming has already started.
A nice example of where novel technology can lead to, can be found with Canada’s company Ro-Main. Several years ago, the company already launched the PigWatch technology, which could deduct from the behaviour of sows when the animals would be in heat. As from February 2019, this technology will be available with an additional camera system for even more features. Simultaneously, Ro-Main will also launch Smart Pig technology – an intelligent camera system that can be mounted in top of a pig house and which can count, track and even deduce the speed of each pig.
What innovations could be found at EuroTier? Browse through Pig Progress’ pick in this overview
Dutch-based Nedap Livestock Management is also making new steps in the world of precision farming – and presented at EuroTier a polished up portfolio, each clearly indicating the phase of swine farming their applications can be used for: ProSense (for research purposes), SowSense (for sow breeders), and PorkSense (for finisher pigs). Being able to follow the animals in more detail will allow information to be available which can be used later during the marketing of the pork – blockchain technology playing a big role here. In this perspective, Nedap has recently developed methods to follow feed intake and monitor weight for sows.
With so many companies working on precision livestock farming there is only one question remaining. How to avoid that pork producers soon will have 25 smart apps on their phone all representing one little bit of the business?
Exactly that is where China’s Yingzi Technologies comes into play. Pig Progress was happy for Dr Jackson He to speak at the Advanced Pig Farming seminar during EuroTier and he clearly indicated what the company’s views are for the future: to build one platform where all data can be found together. For that reason, Yingzi already made serious steps to develop technology for pig facial recognition – and also closed a deal with ventilation company Microfan in the recent past.
Coming back to the picture in the beginning, it goes to show that many more are keen to jump on that bandwagon.