Dairy Industry Asks: Got Big Data?
The bucolic days of the family dairy farm are long gone. Even in places like “America’s Dairyland” (aka, Wisconsin), huge dairy operations that milk thousands of Holstein cows twice a day are an increasingly common site.
These days, the dairy industry is all about production. Enter big data technology as “big dairy” becomes the primary supplier of milk, cheese and, at least in the author’s home state, fried cheese curds.
Among the big data applications being embraced by corporate farmers are years of data on milk production and feed costs. Not only do farmers have to keep track of the weather, they must place high-stakes bets in the futures markets on how weather trends will affect the cost of grain feed needed to keep the herds producing.
Hence, farmers are beginning to replace increasingly onerous spreadsheets with business intelligence tools used to help manage the risks inherent in keeping the silos filled with grains to feed their herds.
Among the technology companies targeting agricultural analytics is NLP Logix of Jacksonville, Fl. The company touts itself as a leader in predictive modeling and analytics. It specializes in building and hosting customized predictive models used to spot trends in client data.
Along with agriculture, it also operates in the health care, energy, defense and financial services sector.
Lately, NLP has been working with agriculture suppliers in northern Florida seeking to leverage large data sets as they make risky bets on the futures markets for costly feed. “I am amazed at what can be done when you combine large data sets,” Will Lloyd, senior director at Suwannee Valley Feeds of Trenton, Fl., said in a NLP testimonial. “You get a whole new perspective when you can see the effects of weather, commodity prices, herd composition and other critical information” combined in an analytics platform.
For its part, NLP said it is using large, disparate sets of agricultural and weather records to develop models “that manage the many variables involved in commodities markets,” NLP COO Robby Robertson said in a statement.
NLP said it has partnered with data visualization specialist Tableau Software to develop an analytics portal customized for the dairy industry dubbed “Dairy Dash.” The platform combines predictive modeling, data visualization and agricultural data from new customers like Suwannee Valley Feeds.
The feed supplier will use the products of those predictive models to help predict milk and grain production across the region’s dairies. The models could also be used to monitor and anticipate market price fluctuations.
As agriculture steadily shifts to larger operations focusing on increased production, ever-greater volumes of data are being captured about daily operations. The data sets for dairy farms are especially large since each cow must be milked twice a day, every day.
Hence, the dairy industry made up of producers and suppliers like Suwannee Valley Feeds are, like other industry sectors, embracing business intelligence tools as the ledger books on milk production begin to stack up in the barn.