Cattle trade and livestock farming in India get a touch of AI, IoT

Jaipur-based cattle farmer Gabduram Meena used to travel frequently to cattle fairs, but when the pandemic struck in 2020, fairs closed and laws around animal trade became stricter. Meena found help on the web — an app-based cattle marketplace from a company called MoooFarm. Meanwhile, in Gurugram, cattle farmer Krishan Ji is trying to use the Animall app to sell his cow. Several of his peers use apps to buy and sell livestock for a good price, and he has received several inquiries.

Meena and Krishan are two of the many modern-day smartphone-savvy cattle farmers turning to web to manage livestock. According to Jitesh Arora, co-founder and chief technology officer of MoooFarm, the livestock management industry is a $70-80 billion opportunity, where cattle discovery and pricing pose challenges for farmers.

This has also attracted investor interest. In July 2021, Animall raised $14 million (approximately Rs102.62 crore) in a Series B funding.

In January this year, MoooFarm raised $2.4 million ( 18 crore) in seed funding.

The government, too, has launched apps like e-Gopala in August 2020 to help farmers choose better quality livestock and improve dairy output.

“India is among the largest milk and dairy-producing countries in the world. But despite its size, India’s dairy industry is still fragmented,” said Anand Ramanathan, partner at Deloitte India. He pointed out that digital marketplaces enable farmers to verify cattle breeds, and milk production claims physically.

For startups, technology implementation doesn’t end with building an online marketplace. MoooFarm verifies each cattle entry on its platform, Arora said. His company started with the classifieds model, where farmers could post an ad and sell cattle. lt has since moved to an inventory model, procuring cattle using a mix of human intervention and technology.

Arora said MoooFarm is running a pilot for using video and image-based machine learning (ML) models to identify which cattle to buy and which to skip. It has been working with ML for recognizing cows before the pandemic. It had developed an algorithm that could use smartphone cameras to differentiate one cow from the next. Arora said the project was put on hold due to the pandemic, but has resumed. It is currently in the development phase.

Kochi-based Brainwired has developed a livestock health monitoring and tracking system that uses Internet of Things (IoT) ear tags to track the vitals, and the estrous cycle of cattle. The data is then put through an ML algorithm to detect and alert farmers about illnesses and pregnancy.

Chitale Dairy from Maharashtra is using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to identify thousands of animals on its many farms. It has also moved its entire application stack to the cloud. It has improved access to real-time information about animals, their health, as well as milk processing plants. “We are using AI/ML models to optimize performance in our milk processing plant. The model is programmed into the plant so it can detect and alert us about any deviations from the norm,” added Vishwas Chitale, CEO and CTO of Chitale Dairy.

Bengaluru-based Hydrogreens Agri Solutions, on the other hand, employs IoT sensors to monitor temperature and humidity levels in warehouses, and regulates water and airflow to provide high-quality fodder for farmers. “Farmers have increased yield by 2-3 litres using green fodder,” said Vasanth Madhav Kamath, founder of Hydrogreens.

MoooFarm also uses ML for pricing cattle. Arora said its algorithms can tell farmers the best price for their livestock based on their location and time of the year. He added that the cattle trade has seen 10x revenue growth in 2021, and is a major source of revenue for MoooFarm, with a 4-5% margin per transaction. The startup claims to have over 1.5 million users right now, even though it is focusing on only three markets — Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana. On the other hand, Animall claims to have reached out to more than 8 million dairy farmers and facilitated 850,000 cattle sales in the last two years.

According to Ramanathan, the growth in this sector is a result of growing internet connectivity. “The farmer segment that owns 10-30 cattle is growing faster and needs access to these digital apps to improve farm management practices and quality inputs.” Apps like these also provide online consultation with veterinarians for a fee, knowledge-sharing features among farmers, and transportation services, he added.

Interestingly, despite hundreds of crores of rupees in investments, Ramanathan believes that livestock management apps are still in a nascent stage. He said that the adoption of such technologies is low when compared to the size of the overall cattle industry. He added, however, that the ease of use associated with most of these solutions and availability in local languages ​​will help increase adoption.

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