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Farmnote’s system uses AI to learn and analyze individual cows’ health, allowing for remote cattle management — helping dairy farmers to enhance productivity and utilize their time more effectively.
Japan’s dairy farming industry has been struggling in recent years. Demand
for milk dropped during the pandemic, leading to concerns that huge volumes of
milk would go to waste in 2021 and again in 2022. The rising prices of imported
feed and soaring fuel and energy costs only added to the pressure on dairy
farmers. A July 2023
by the Japan Dairy Council found that 85 percent of Japanese dairy farmers
were operating at a loss; and roughly 60 percent of them were considering
leaving the dairy farming industry.
In response to these challenges, both the government and the industry have
implemented a range of initiatives; but as Shinya
Kobayashi — president
and CEO of Farmnote Holdings Inc — points out, “It’s
vital that dairy farmers understand management practices and aim to enhance
Farmnote CEO Shinya Kobayashi | Image credit: Farmnote Holdings
Kobayashi founded an IT startup in 2004 and learned of the difficulties dairy
farmers face in keeping tabs on each individual dairy cow through conversations
with a dairy farming client.
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“Dairy farmers keep a close eye on their cows from dawn till dusk, using a
multitude of different documents to manage their cows,” Kobayashi explained.
“Many aspects, such as the timing of breeding, rely heavily on rules of thumb
that farmers learn through direct experience. I realized that, by managing these
aspects using a cloud system and accumulating relevant data, we could help
enhance productivity and improve dairy farm management.”
Aiming to help tackle these challenges, Kobayashi established Farmnote Holdings
in 2013; and in 2014, the company launched a smartphone app for dairy and beef
cattle farmers called Farmnote Cloud. The company
then introduced wearable sensors for cows called Farmnote Color. By
attaching these devices to the cows’ necks, the system enables 24-hour
monitoring of their activities and heat cycles, signs of calving and changes to
their health. The system uses artificial intelligence to learn and analyze
individual differences, allowing for remote cattle management — thereby helping
dairy farmers to enhance productivity and utilize their time more effectively.
Kobayashi added that “Increasing per-cow productivity leads not only to reduced
water and energy use and the lowering of cattle stress levels, it also enables
greenhouse gas emissions reductions. By centrally managing a variety of data
sets and automatically identifying individual cows requiring attention, our
system can also make the work of dairy farmers easier.”
Image credit: Farmnote Holdings
In 2019, the Farmnote Group established Farmnote Dairy Platform Inc. and set
up a farm in the town of Nakashibetsu in Hokkaido. Through dairy-farming
digital-transformation initiatives based on systems they have developed
in-house, they are working to create a framework that combines high
profitability with sustainability.
“By operating our own farm, we can work on making our technology and expertise
more practical in nature,” Kobayashi said. “We don’t have a manager at our farm
and instead hold daily meetings to review cattle data and then allocate tasks to
personnel based on that data. If someone is absent, other team members can step
in to cover for them; and even new recruits fresh out of university can go and
carry out tasks on the farm without hesitation. This approach allows us to
create a working environment similar to that of a typical corporate setting.”
The team has made significant progress with automation and mechanization —
including installing cow-milking robots that enable up to 120 cows to be milked
per day, and curtains and ventilation fans that operate in response to sunlight
and temperature conditions. This reduction in human intervention apparently also
helps to alleviate stress among the cattle, and it is common to see the cows in
the barn calmly resting and eating.
To enhance dairy-farming productivity, analyzing cows’ genetic to increase the
number of high-productivity cows is crucial. To achieve this, Farmnote conducts
genetic testing and provides services such as Farmnote
Gene — which presents test results in an easily
understandable manner and provides guidance on the next steps to take, as well
as a genetics service distributing frozen fertilized eggs nationwide. These
wide-ranging services are all aimed at the core goal of providing dairy farmers
with visualization tools and support for decision-making.
In addition, the company has begun developing solutions aimed at reducing dairy
farming greenhouse gas emissions — including sensors that measure the emissions
of each cow — and has also become the first in Japan’s dairy industry to be
registered in a carbon credit scheme (the J-Credit
Scheme) for its slurry-processing method.
In August 2023, Farmnote Holdings entered into a capital and business
partnership with Meiji Holdings Co., Ltd.
Leveraging both companies' expertise and technologies for gathering data on individual cows, they aim to work together to support dairy farmers in
reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and help make the dairy-farming industry
Farmnote Group’s vision is to “Be connected.” Kobayashi says, “Dairy farming is
just one entry point for us. Through technological innovation and
problem-solving, we want to boost the number of leaders able to contribute to
Farmnote Group is also looking to expand into other livestock- and crop-farming
industries with an eye to global expansion. Through two-way sharing of knowhow
with people in the farming industry, they will keep striving towards their aim
of building up a knowledge ecosystem contributing to sustainable enrichment for
humans, animals and the environment.
Published Nov 9, 2023 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.