Vat monitoring technology such as SmartaFarm has the potential to dramatically improve logistics efficiently and quality standards in the Australian dairy industry, according to Craig Dixon from Blu Logistics Solutions.
The SmartaFarm on-farm monitoring solution involves a sensor being retrofitted to vats, delivering quality and quantity data to everyone in the supply chain.
There are two farms in Mount Gambier currently using the SmartFarm technology and Craig says it’s like having a set of eyes at the dairy.
“SmartaFarm is a powerful tool. From our perspective as a milk transporter, we can see what’s happening in the vats on the farms in real in time. We can see milk volumes and temperature and the data is updated every five minutes,” he says.
“Additionally, we can get a complete history of each vat – when milking started, when it finished, and the milk temperature at different time points. And I can see the data via the SmartaFarm app on my phone or computer.”
Craig says accurate data is critical at peak times of the year and when dealing with specialised products. “When milk volumes are through the roof we’re often guessing what might be at farms to pick up. With SmartaFarm we can plan to direct an extra truck to collect overflow milk when we know what the volumes are,” he says.
“We send specialised A2 milk from Mount Gambier over to Canberra. So now we know exactly how much of that milk we’re picking up and what vat it’s in. So, we can send the right truck to the right places at the right times.
“It’s also important for quality control and scheduling. We’ve had drivers down in Mount Gambier and I’ve been able to jump on and see the temperature of the milk in different vats on different farms and work out the pick-up schedule based on actual data.
“That saves time, which is important when you’re driving from Adelaide to Mount Gambier and back again, or to Canberra.”
The system also has a weather station attached to it, enabling the sensor to predict milk volumes based on climate data.
“This is really helpful for planning, for the farmer, the transporter and the processor,” Craig said.
“A big benefit for farmers is that the sensors set off alerts for things like temperature, power supply and so on. So, if there’s a power failure, the farmer gets an alert on their phone and they can go and sort it out rather than arrive at the dairy too late and find warm milk that needs to be dumped.
“And for processors, being able to see exactly how much milk they’re getting and when via an app is amazing. And they will be able to see the history of the quality of the milk, from the time of milking to the time the milk gets to the factory.”
Craig helped install the SmartaFarm hardware at the two dairies in South Australia and says the process is straight forward. “We put the sensors in while the vat is empty then the farmer can go milking and fill up the vat while we install the cables, control panel and weather station,” he said.
“Then the guys from SmartaFarm do online training with the farmers to show them how to use the system and get the most out of it.”
Craig says the system is accurate – of the 20,000 litres his team collects from Mount Gambier, they’ve found a difference of 300 litres.
“I can see SmartaFarm being installed on all dairy farms in the future, as we all strive to improve milk quality, safety and efficiency standards,” he said.