Follow Friday: Connecterra

Previously I wrote about whether we can save the environment while still consuming cow products. One of the best ways to reduce our impact on the environment (while still eating beef and dairy) is to improve farming methods.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claims grazing cattle require less than a kilogram of feed to product one kilogram of meat. And as Frederic Leroy highlights, certain forms of grazing methods may actually “contribute to climate change mitigation,” primarily because it can promote the presence of soil organic carbon (SOC).

Glen from Happy Cow recently wrote about soil nitrogen content in his newsletter. He makes the point that biodiversity – cows, legumes, veggies and all – is necessary for the earth to thrive.

So how do we maximize our return on cows and ultimately make the world a better, less hungry place?

Connecterra: Environmental Sustainability through Artificial Intelligence

Connecterra is using technology to encourage sustainable food growth. Their first major product, Ida (the Intelligent Dairy farmer’s Assistant), helps dairy farmers around the world track and maintain the health of their herds.

With tracker collars for the cows, a farmer can monitor their herd’s behavior. Using the collected data, Ida can detect anomalies before any evident signs of distress are expressed.

For example, Ida can detect heat stress levels in different cows so that farmers can take action to prevent their condition from worsening. Users can also prioritize behaviors so that Ida can rank the cows accordingly (example: tracking milk yield compared to rumen efficiency).

This kind of technology is transformative in so many ways. To start, it can mean not just fewer sick cows, but more healthy cows. As a result, the dairy produced is better for us, and the farmer’s resources are better allocated to preventive care instead of reactive.

Ida is also a learning technology, which means it will improve with use over time. This can help the farmer – and ultimately the entire dairy supply chain – become more efficient.

Final Thoughts

Ida is a remarkable application of artificial intelligence to improve a sector of the food industry, one that currently has a bad reputation in regards to environmental sustainability.

Of course, this doesn’t quite answer the question of whether we should stop consuming beef. It does, however, provide at least a standard for consuming dairy products, and maybe this same technology can help cattle farmers raise cows for beef in a more sustainable way.

There is no public list available of farmers who are using Ida, but maybe in the future, consumers will be able to scan their bottle of milk to learn where it came from via blockchain. (Ha! Didn’t think I’d sneak blockchain into this, did you?)

Feel free to ruminate on these thoughts next time you eat a cheeseburger.

Author: Sterling Schuyler

Sterling writes to put broad statements into real context. She enjoys conducting in-depth research in order to bring factual integrity to any topic, especially anything about food. Whether it's the ethics of food science or the tale of a family-owned business, Sterling loves to breathe life and substance into these stories. In her downtime, she enjoys gardening, playing board games and video games, and writing for her personal blog The Asian Craving.

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