McGill University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) have partnered to research how artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) could improve cow welfare on dairy farms.
The $5 million Research and Innovation Chair in Animal Welfare and Artificial-Intelligence (WELL-E) comes as high demand for sustainable animal production clashes with mounting economic pressure on dairy producers.
McGill and UQAM say the key to addressing issues of economic, social and environmental sustainability in dairy farming could lie in improved cow welfare and longevity.
Thanks to algorithms, integration of data from on-farm cameras, IoT devices and available dairy producers' databases, researchers are able to provide predictions that aid in on-farm decision-making and provide dairy producers with data to help improve and extend the lives of their livestock.
The project is funded by a grant from NSERC Alliance and Prompt, fiduciary of the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy.
Contributions have also been made by partners Novalait, Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), Les Producteurs de Lait du Québec (PLQ), and Lactanet.
WELL-E will be led by Elsa Vasseur, a professor at McGill’s Department of Animal Science, and Abdoulaye Baniré Diallo, a professor at UQAM’s Department of Computer Science.
The project will initially be rolled out on two pilot research farms, one in Quebec and the other in Ontario, with plans to expand to a network of over 100 farms across the two provinces, creating a digital living lab centered on animal and dairy producers' needs.
"Dairy farmers across Canada are pleased to support the creation of the Research and Innovation Chair in Animal Welfare and Artificial Intelligence (WELL-E)," said Pierre Lampron, president of DFC, in a statement. "Across Canada, dairy farmers have long fostered a culture of excellence and continuous progression by ensuring that every litre of milk produced in Canada is produced in accordance with some of the most stringent animal care standards in the world. We are excited to support this research initiative as it will serve as the genesis for future practices and tools that further advance our industry-wide animal care objectives."