Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) offers a range of technologies to continuously monitor farm animals and their immediate environment. These technologies have the potential to help farmers make decisions that will result in increased profitability, animal welfare and reduced impact on the planet.
“most farmers and other stakeholders (e.g. vets) do not currently have the skills to utilise these technologies effectively. It is time consuming to combine and analyse the data derived from different sensors in different formats and frequencies”
However, as stated by Eric Koenders (researcher at Fancom) and colleagues “most farmers and other stakeholders (e.g. vets) do not currently have the skills to utilise these technologies effectively. It is time consuming to combine and analyse the data derived from different sensors in different formats and frequencies”
To address this problem, research development teams at Fancom Research, Soundtalks and the Catholic University of Leuven are collaborating within the EU-PLF project to develop a practical “visualization tool to bring together the scattered data, to analyse the data and to present them in an easy to use format to the end user”. They presented their first results during the last EC-PLF conference held in Milan from 15-18 September 2015.
The visualisation tool uses data from various sensors including the number of animals, mortality, temperature and humidity, feed and water consumption, activity and distribution of the animals and number of coughs (Figure 1). The output is customised for each farm, based on its specificities. It includes information on production parameters, climatic conditions as well as behaviour, health and welfare of the animals. Farmers using the tool are actively involved in its development. “After the first version of the visualisation tool was up and running, the farmers where invited for a training session of one day to get familiar with the tool and the data. Also feedback of farmers was used to improve the tool,” stated Tom van Hertem (Fancom), who presented on the first results.
The tool is far from being finalised and still needs a lot of further development, Tom continued “…in the future, a lot can be done to make the visualisation of data more interesting for farmers… All the data have to be translated into information, i.e. by farm- or breed-specific reference curves, Key Performance Indices (KPI’s) or early warnings (Figure 2). This will make PLF more useful for farmers. The search for extracting known information that is still hidden in the pool of the existing PLF-data continues.” The authors also insist that “training [of the farmers] is a necessity when it comes to using tools for data visualisation and data interpretation,”