I was so proud to lead the official opening of Agri-EPI Centre’s new South West Dairy Development Centre last week.
As Project Manager of the Centre, this event was the culmination of more than two years of planning and hard work. It has led us to a cutting edge new facility which, we believe, offers a fresh vision for the future sustainability of UK dairy farming.
The Centre is focused on developing, testing, sharing and bringing to market new technologies and techniques which could help dairy farmers become more efficient and profitable. As part of a host of really exciting activities involving emerging technologies, we’re extremely pleased to be one of the three UK testbeds for the 5G RuralFirst Project.
To put our involvement in 5G into context, our mantra here is, ‘measure it to manage it’. Sensor technology is being used to gather data to enable us to maximise precision in many aspects of feeding, production, health and welfare across the farm: indoors and outdoors, by satellite, and on the cows.
5G has the potential to play an important role in allowing farmers – not just in the dairy sector but across the whole industry – to manage their businesses using real-time information. The opportunities this offers could be huge, from receiving instant information about which individual plants in a crop need fertiliser to having a vet anywhere in the world examine a sick animal using HD video and prescribe immediate treatment.
We have already had a lot of interest in our involvement in the 5G RuralFirst project, from the industry, those involved in the 5G technology and from the media. We are welcoming the BBC to the centre tomorrow to tell them about the Afimilk Silent Herdsman collars our cows wear, which contain sensors that transmit data about each animal’s movement, rumination – chewing the cud – and feeding, so that any issues with their health can be picked up at the earliest possible stage.
This doesn’t replace a stockperson’s skills but enhances them by enabling them to take action at the first hint of any issues with an animal. We are currently exploring how 5G can take this technology a step further and are very excited about the possibilities ahead.
I believe 5G technology offers immense opportunities for the farming industry and for the rural communities across the UK. The South West Dairy Centre is in a fantastic position to explore how to maximise those opportunities.