Remember when you had to let your credit card company know you were traveling abroad so they wouldn’t decline a charge while you were trying to buy something during your trip? Ever wonder why we no longer need to do that? In a nutshell it’s because big data and data analytics have advanced to the point that these companies can look at your buying patterns and flag suspicious activity, while allowing for normal activity to go forward. It’s the same thing when Netflix serves up movies you might like based on your past viewing choices.
So what do all these technological advances have to do with animal nutrition and health? In the following post, I will make the case that the future of data in the animal production industry is already here and will only continue to advance and become more sophisticated. I see the future drivers in this space in three areas: big data, artificial intelligence and traceability.
Data-driven solutions are what sets producers apart in today’s climate. Using data, producers and nutritionists have the ability to visualize trends in the nutrition, health, and productivity status of their animals. This allows integrators and producers to make management and input changes, for example, and then monitor and manage the outcomes. This facilitates better, more manageable decision making. When the correct algorithms are dialed in, they have the ability to detect patterns and correlations that may be difficult to discern when you are dealing with the day-to-day aspects of production. Of course correlation does not mean causation, and newer, more sophisticated tools will be necessary to discern meaningful connections within the ever growing data sets. Which brings us to…
While the term sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie (in fact, there was a Spielberg movie with that name back in 2001, A. I. Artificial Intelligence), artificial intelligence is simply using the computing power available to analyze and learn from data in ways that humans alone would not be able to do efficiently. Everyday examples include the face recognition software in your iPhone and mapping software that enables Google Maps to plot out the most efficient routes from point A to B. While AI in the animal industry has historically referred to something else entirely (AI), there is a future role for artificial intelligence in this industry that could be transformative. Imagine being able to predict the outbreak of a disease in an animal herd or bird flock before it spreads by monitoring and analyzing vocalizations or gait. Or imagine using sensors to monitor and automatically adjust the temperature and environment of the farmhouses to optimize growth and performance. These use cases are just scratching the surface of all that is possible when AI is applied to the challenges animal producers face everyday.
OK, you’ve probably heard about blockchain technology in the context of cryptocurrency like BitCoin and DogeCoin. But it is so much more than that. Blockchain is simply a system of recording information that makes it difficult to change or hack. How can it be applied in animal production? Imagine being able to literally trace animal protein from farm to fork. Blockchain makes it possible. And in today’s world, traceability continues to be a focus as we seek to track everything as it moves through an increasingly global supply chain in order to ensure food safety and integrity
As the industry embraces these trends, we must remember what data means for the future. All the data in the world means nothing if we cannot interpret, analyze and make actionable decisions based on it. With a clear strategy and process for integrating data-driven decision making, we can anticipate problems and react more quickly to challenges, thereby ensuring a more productive and healthy future for producers and consumers worldwide.