What is the future of dairy farming? If you’re thinking about data then you might be on the right path. The Dutch firm Nedap has been a leader in gathering and parsing production data for dairy farmers. Their next leap forward in technology is bringing Augmented Reality to the farm.

In today’s climate, it is impossible to be successful without knowing your numbers, from the cost of production to days open. That is the simplest way to describe what Nedap’s existing CowControl system provides. With smart tags attached to each cow in the herd it can monitor signs of heat, eating, rumination, standing, lying, walking, inactivity, and most importantly, location. The value of their product is to take this data and turn it into something useful like to-do lists, reports, and barn maps. All of these allow farmers to use the gathered information to make better management decisions.

Current customers have been using computers, tablets, and smartphones to view and access the data. In an effort to incorporate groundbreaking technology, after several years of development, Nedap is introducing a way to access the data faster without any of those devices. They want farmers to wear Microsoft Hololens visors so they can see and interact with the data without ever looking away from the cow.
While virtual reality (VR) immerses the user with vision, sound, and touch and cuts them off from the outside world, augmented reality (AR) typically adds to the real world. One of the most successful uses of AR was with the popular Pokemon Go app for smartphones. By looking around with the phone’s camera, players could find things in the game wherever they pointed. The Hololens takes this to the next level by having you always look through the visor and having the data presented as an overlay in your vision. You can use your voice and fingers to interact with the program. Ask where a cow is and directions to her will be presented. Look at the cow and all of her production history is a hand gesture away.

As neat as it sounds, Hololens visors do not come cheap and sell for $3,500 each. To mitigate the expense, Nedap will likely incorporate it as part of their subscription fee, possibly like adding an additional phone on your cell phone plan. The real question is will it add value to your operation.

The Hololens will be another device to charge and care for. Will it be sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse and demands of life in the barn? Unlike a tractor or smartphone, you’re going to use it exclusively for one purpose. Early adopters should always accept the risk of new technology and realize their will be bumps in the road from software updates to technical support calls and questions. Farm managers, employees, and owners likely all use smartphones or tablets to view the data already. How much advantage will they have to see this on another screen as opposed to the one they already have in their pocket?

Nedap should be praised for forward thinking on what the latest technology can do to improve farm management decisions.

From the plow and tractor to robot milking machines and GMO crops, farmers have adopted early technology to improve production while reducing expenses. Time will tell if augmented reality will become the newest management tool for dairy farmers.

Discover Nedap Augmented Reality