Yasir Khokhar and Saad Ansari, founders of Connecterra, were featured on Google’s blog about the way they are applying machine learning to an unexpected field: dairy farming.
“Connecterra means ‘connected earth’ and we founded the company based on a simple thesis: if we could use technology to make sense of data from the natural world, then we could make a real impact in solving the pressing problems of our time”, explains Khokhar. It all started when Khokhar moved to a farm in the Netherlands, near Amsterdam. “We had both spent many years working in the technology industry and realised that the dairy industry was a sector where technology could make a dramatic impact. For instance, we saw that the only difference between cows that produce 30 litres of milk a day and those that produce 10 litres was the animal’s health. We wondered—could technology make cows healthier, and in doing so, help farmers grow their businesses?”, Khokhar explains.
Using TensorFlow to understand cow behaviour
That thinking spurred the two entrepreneurs to start working weekends and evenings on what would eventually become IDA – a platform that uses TensorFlow, Google’s machine learning framework, to understand and interpret the behaviour of cows and give farmers insights about their herds’ health.
IDA learns patterns about a cow’s movements from a wearable sensor. “We use this data to train machine learning models in TensorFlow, and ultimately, IDA can detect activities from eating, drinking, resting, fertility, temperature and more. It’s not just tracking this information, though. We use IDA to predict problems early, detecting cases like lameness or digestive disorders, and provide recommendations to farmers on how to keep their cows healthy and improve the efficiency of their farms. Using these insights, we’re already seeing a 30 percent increase in dairy production on our customers’ farms”, says Ansari.