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Podcast Smart Livestock Farming summary

Collocutor Associate professor Darina Zaimova, Department of Industrial Business and Entrepreneurship at Trakia university Stara Zagora and coordinator of Smart Animal Husbandry research programme

The role of data in smart systems in animal husbandry

Animal husbandry is among the most dynamic and important sectors in Bulgaria that has in the recent years been transforming economically, socially, from market and resource perspective. The National Research Programme includes all the key transformations such as automation, robotics, cyber-physics and production processes, genetics, selection, biodiversity and ecology. The smart system is a very complex concept, associated with several specific points in our National Programme. Firstly, those are robotization and automation of technological operations, optimization of the reproductive processes, precise animal feeding methods, health monitoring, smart waste management and creation of new educational resources. The latter is extremely important. The specific components are robotized milking systems, which add to the animal welfare, increase sharply the quality of the milk and reduce physical labour. The milking robot collects continuous data about the herd and every animal in it – animals in need of adoption, calving, need for medication, dietary needs. Robots determine the size of grassland an animal needs and the additional nutrition during the winter months. The smart system also includes cyber-physical monitoring and management systems – stress factors and health condition. The smart systems involve genetic progress based on genome assessment as well.

Technological components of an automated farm

Let’s start with the sensors which collect data. Our research teams work on stationary and mobile sensor complexes that take samples and monitor the parameters of soils and grass. This allows us to observe the temperature, humidity, gas levels etc.  and combines them with meteorological data of the locality. Thus, we have a complex picture of the optimum breeding care. The team developed a prototype of a monitoring system for animal health, behaviour and emotions. The smart farm uses data from various sensors to develop monitoring algorithms, which produce specific technical, and economic indicators. The location of the cattle and their health are tracked and the algorithms for smart management of cyber-physical systems can change parameters to optimize the breeding conditions in real time. The systems allows for monitoring of individual animals through a dynamic filter with QR code. All that requires good connectivity.

Smart waste management in an animal farm

Waste is a very essential element in stock breeding because it produces large quantities which are in turn a source of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. It also consumes large amounts of energy resources. The programme developed a circular economy concept for waste management that produces energy, mostly from biogases that can be used in co-regeneration installations. Our research is focused on optimizing the waste utilization processes by producing electric and thermal energy from left-overs, thus at the same time increasing the energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse emissions.

For which producers are accessible these achievements and technologies?

No science can be productive without actual application; it should be of use to the society in economic, social and environmental ways. Our science is open to all who are willing to read and use it. The programme goes hand-in-hand with the business and is very practically oriented. Our research base reflects specific problems of today and those expected in the next 10-15 years. Our researchers work with the industry, with representatives of the farmers, with producers and the processing industry. 50-60% of the time they are in the field cooperating with the users. Each and everyone in the sector who needs and is willing to use our results can have access to them. This is the purpose of this programme.

Are producers interested in the scientific achievements?

Our links are bilateral, we have established relationships. This programme has attracted interest from the start and it continues now that the work is very intense and generating results that we share. We participate in all possible dissemination initiatives and organize our own. We also organize training for farmers at our facilities. For instance tomorrow we have an event about genetic resources that will give the participants access to the unique equipment that the researchers use.