Pilot in dairy farming sector

Smart data for increased food production

Farmers can make their production more sustainable and efficient by combining data and conducting data analysis. This is a key condition for being able to feed the rapidly growing world population. Rabobank is launching the AgriData pilot to join forces with partners in the chain to explore the possibilities in this field. The pilot is starting with the dairy farming sector.

Marc Havermans took over the dairy farm from his in-laws in 2005. He tripled the size of the company within the following three years. The farm grew from 100 to 300 dairy cows and the amount of available grazing land increased from 40 to 185 hectares. Havermans believes he could be even more successful if he had better insight into his business operations. 'My greatest challenge is to know where my business will be one or three years from now. It's also difficult to make day-to-day decisions, such as whether to invest in new land or to keep part of the cows. When is it, for example, time to get rid of a cow because it stops giving milk? Or when is the best time to inseminate a cow?'

Smart applications

The solution lies in combining relevant data on different links in the chain. That's why Rabobank launched the AgriData pilot, explains Food & Agri Director Ruud Huirne: 'Rabobank has vast data from the agricultural sector. By making that data available, we can be of even greater value to our customers. We use smart applications based on data analysis to help farmers optimise their business operations and make them more sustainable. As a result they can make an important contribution to meeting the challenge of producing more food with fewer farmers for nine billion people by 2050.'

Cutting costs

Rabobank began by looking for the right partner in the chain for this pilot. It decided to team up with Lely, a company which produces machines including milk robots. The data collected from the milk robots is combined with anonymised information from Rabobank, such as financing flows at the sector level. 'Dairy farmers can use this information, for example, to compare their performance in relation to finances, operations and sustainability. As a result they can make well-founded business choices,' says Huirne. 'It also enables farmers to keep their cows healthier, which in turn lets them cut a lot of costs.'

Milk robots

There are already many possibilities for collecting data and there will be even more in the future. For example, dairy farmer Havermans already has five milking robots, two feed robots, two drink machines for the calves, a feed pushing machine and a manure robot. He can already combine the data from all of them. There is also access to data on soil, production, yields and the weather. But also data from other links in the chain, such as manure, feed and pesticides.

Doing the math

Havermans is convinced that the availability of data will have far-reaching benefits for his business operations. 'Right now the price of milk is going up. I have to decide whether I should or shouldn't buy more cows. That's a difficult calculation to make. I think management packages will be very helpful in this area in the future. It will make it a lot easier to make day-to-day decisions.'

Huirne expects that Rabobank will within a couple of years, thanks to the AgriData pilot, not only be a financial partner for agricultural customers, but also serve as a network partner in the field of data. 'We'll be able to provide farmers both with financial advice and related products and assistance relating to information and the ability to make well-founded financial decisions.'