Last week I had the unique pleasure of taking the longest modern day flight from Amsterdam to Auckland to attend the MobileTech 2016 primary industry conference. Having never been to New Zealand before, I merely needed an excuse to travel and also learn about what is one of the major dairy markets of the world.

Dairy is everywhere in New Zealand, try if you will, it’s hard to avoid. Starting from the rather severe biosecurity requirements at the airport to the landscape dotted with grazing cows everywhere, dairy is integrated into the kiwi culture. Reflecting on the two days I spent at the conference, here are some of my key takeaways:

The dairy Industry is under pressure

The impact of falling milk prices is at the forefront of farmers and industry professionals alike. Farmers are having to cut production, adding pressure to their investment capability while at the same time milk distribution companies are feeling the pressure of dropping demand from China. While the government has yet to intervene, there are rumblings that the NZ government may need to step in to bolster this industry. Having said that, there is increased focus now on diversification from farmers and how best they can leverage their land, resources and skill to continue to feed international markets with their products.

Big Data, IOT, Drones and rural connectivity are major themes being explored

While the themes are not necessarily novel and the same level of discussions are taking place in the EU, there are early signs of adoption by value chain and farmers alike in New Zealand. Several companies and NGO’s have successfully deployed location tracking technologies to enable traceability. These are early signs of successful adoption of basic IOT/data driven technologies. Telco’s also see this space as a major opportunity and have plans to create new connectivity options for data and sensor based technologies to rely on their infrastructure. However, rural connectivity is the long-tail and it may take time for remote areas to catch up with urban standards. The needs of farmers are far more basic than what current technology roadmap provides and these basic issues need to be addressed first.

Connecterra’s product offering is differentiated

The showcase of farm management, drone mapping, sensor data analysing technologies was impressive to say the least. The slew of technologies that are able to map a field in multiple wavelengths, from drones or satellites is staggering and the fundamental technologies are getting better every day. However, almost all vendors present the data and findings to the farmer leaving the end user wondering what exactly the vendor expects the farmer to do with the data? Connecterra’s dairy health service delivers insights from data making them actionable and usable for farmers. The feedback we received on this particular aspect was very encouraging and highly differentiated. Contrary to what one might expect, farmers and industry are not necessarily technology laggards but pragmatic buyers of technology. Given the right proof points of value and technology that works for the bottom line, purchase decisions are relatively straightforward. Farmers need all the help in improving their work-life balance and basic P&L of their operations and if technology impacts this, then it’s a deal.

By Yasir Khokhar, CEO at Connecterra.

Thanks to the EU Accelerator programs in high-tech (ICT Agri), Connecterra has been selected for funding of our first service and product launch.

While the investment helps accelerate our progress, the addition of some of the leading researchers in Smart Food, Dairy Science and Sensor Hardware helps validate our product designs.

Over the coming few weeks we are finalising our release plans and preparing for upcoming beta field trials. If you find a few nerdy looking guys hanging around dairy farms around your area, you may want to drop by and say hello.

Till next time, we’ll keep you posted!

In Isaac Asimov’s foundation series, a group of scientist and artisans are tasked with collecting all knowledge known to humanity in the hope that a second, more successful era may dawn. Connecterra (pronounced “Connec-Terra”), on some days, feels like Foundation. Perhaps more humbly put, a unit on that far-off planet.

It is our belief that as the world moves forward towards a more populated and connected planet, the demands on fundamental industries such as dairy, agriculture, transport and manufacturing will require even more help from technology. While many industries today have an admirable level of sophistication, till date, being able to improve efficiency in non-deterministic processes via technology has been hard. Our goal is to develop the technologies that will generate data from real-world analog processes, collect, develop insights and take action based on recommendations generated enabling deterministic outcomes for efficiency and productivity improvements.

Connecterra is where this all comes together and our name suggests; we’re connecting the analog to understand everything on Earth. 

We are an engineering company that is a union of three technologies: Sensor Technologies U Data Science U Cloud Platform. For Connecterra, each of these components hold very special meaning and while common definitions may suffice, allow us the latitude to explain our usage of these technologies:

  1. Sensor Technologies: Hardware engineering today is able to detect and measure many real-world properties such as temperature, humidity, body movements and location to name just a few. Advancements in this space are constant with highly sophisticated sensors even detecting brain wave patterns. Sensor technology is the data source for Connecterra and we’re engineering the hardware platform to capture multiple data sets from a single device.
  2. Data Science: A branch of statistical mathematics that extracts meaning from numbers by creating mathematical models which are able to learn, detect and predict insights based on large volumes of data. Common sci-fi descriptions of data science also call it ‘Artificial Intelligence’. At Connecterra data science simplifies these concepts to three tenants: ‘learn’, ‘detect’ and ‘predict’.
  3. Cloud Platform: The Connecterra cloud platform is the data store, the computational engine and the plumbing that marries sensor data with our data science algorithms and delivers them to end-users. This complex piece of technology is invisible to end-users and is the heart of Connecterra.

Take our first product for instance, our dairy activity monitor is constantly capturing the movement of cattle and is able to detect real-world insights such as a cow’s food intake, estrus cycles and even understand the social interactions of each individual animal. A farmer today has intimate knowledge of his or her herd but this knowledge has physical limitations based on herd size and the farmer’s experience. Connecterra’s technology eliminates the scale problems for farmers and at the same time makes the observations accurate. Computers are good at this sort of stuff.

But knowing these behaviors is just one part of the story, the other part is using the data to helping improve production for farmers. Our approach takes the stance that once we have knowledge, we apply it back to the problem space via automation or usable recommendations to the end-user. In the case of our Dairy Monitor, this will result in recommendations to the farmer on the best time to start calving cycles or suggestions on optimal barn temperatures.

These nuggets of insights are what create orders of magnitude improvements in efficiency and what we believe will be the foundation for industrial processes in the years to come.

We are a small team of dreamers and doers with diverse backgrounds in data science, cloud computing and a chronic habit for swimming upstream. We’ve come this far after months of laborious work and we have a long way to go. We’ll keep you posted on the success, challenges and lessons we’ve learnt along the way. Keep us company and visit here often.

Till next time.