The analysis of large volumes of data collected in fields, warehouses, trucks and even the stomachs of animals may be key to preventing widespread famine in the coming decades. It is expected that the world population of 9,000 million in 2050, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that food production will have to increase by 70% over the next 35 years to avoid a famine generalized.
But the increased use of agricultural land for biofuel production means there is less land available for food, and nearly half – or two billion tons – of food produced is wasted, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) based in London. Therefore, the data analysis technology could be key to improving the situation.
In this context, innovations in the form of data collection can transform livestock production of milk and meat. For example, Vital Herd (“vital Flock”), a start-up based in Texas, has developed a device that cows can swallow. The sensor or electronic pill stays in the stomach of the cow and uses sonar technology – originally developed for military purposes – to collect information about the animal, such as heart rate, temperature, rumination time, acidity rumen and estrogen levels. It will be commercially available later this year.
The information stored in each of these electronic pills is transmitted wirelessly to the receiver, and then go online and end up in the cloud, as the online storage platforms known. Vital Herd collates and interprets data on each animal so it can be seen by farmers. With all these data, the software sends alerts Vital Herd text message or email if it finds that an animal has a problem.
“40% of dairy cows get sick each year”, said Brian Walsh, the CEO of Vital Herd. “The cause may be early lactation, the type of food they are receiving or other complication. Early warning or automatic detection can help minimize complications or avoid them completely”.
According to the Department of Agriculture of the United States, the total losses by the illness and death of animals are more than 5,000 million dollars a year, with overall losses 12 times larger.
Walsh believes will be more productive if done analysis of historical data from a large number of livestock. “If we can store customer data in different regions we can make the benchmarking of industry and productivity studies to link the data of vital signs and genes”, he says.
GROWERS IN THE CLOUD
The analysis of large amounts of data can also improve crop yields and help farmers to make better decisions about when to plant and harvest their crops. For example, the Climate Corporation -Climate-Corporation, a company founded by two former employees of Google and acquired by the agricultural giant Monsanto in 2013, has an information system of agriculture based on the cloud that takes into account measurements 2,500,000 points in time everyday.
The system processes the data, along with 150,000 million observations of soil, and generates 10,000 million points of climate simulation data. With this information, the company claims it can give farmers U.S. temperature forecasts, rain and wind for specific areas such as a square kilometer for the next 24 hours and seven days.
System is accessed from a web browser. This information allows farmers to see when is best to spray large areas of farmland as they can prove that the earth is dry enough, the wind speed is low enough to allow spraying and have the time needed before the next rain.
The system also uses daily weather data for the past months to provide farmers estimates of crop yields in individual fields and allows them to explore historical data from the last thirty seasons to be precise value of the fields that might be an idea considering.
WAR ON WASTE
But although the crops, dairy products and meat can be produced more efficiently by the use of large volumes of data, is a difficult task to bring the farm or slaughterhouse to the dinner table.
That’s because most food must be transported hundreds or even thousands of miles within pallets loaded on trucks, boats and even aircraft, with stops in warehouses and distribution points on the road containers.
Changes in temperature, humidity and even oxygen levels in the containers can affect the state of the food when it reaches its target market. Between 10 and 15% of transported refrigerated foods spoil during the trip, according to some industry estimates, at a cost of around 25,000 million.
Tech Mahindra, a technology company based in Bangalore, India, offers a system called Farm-to-Fork (“farm to fork”) whose objective is to monitor the containers from a plant that sends alerts whenever conditions a container are not ideal.
The sensors measure the temperature in each container, the humidity and other parameters. They communicate through mobile data networks while containers are in motion and through wi-fi when they arrive at the distribution centers. They also have installed a global positioning system (GPS) that keeps track of where the containers are.
In some circumstances, problems can be corrected automatically, according to Mahesh Vasudevanallur, head of company practice. For example, if the sensors indicate that the levels of oxygen in the container are very low, a tank on board can release more gas.
If automatic adjustment is not possible, humans can intervene. “In the case of a ship on the high seas, the manager receives an alert message to see what measures can be taken”, says Vasudevanallur. “In a truck, the driver can go to the nearest fix the problem rather than continue to their final destination station”.
Specialized in working with large volumes of data (Big Data) scientific analysis can make the freshness and nutritional value in every part of the value chain to improve the longevity of food. That will do wonders and make the products end up in the stomachs instead of trash