The Indian dairy industry has benefited greatly in recent years from technology-driven products, facilities, and solutions. Technology will be critical in bringing in and maintaining the country's third white revolution. The role of technology in the dairy industry has grown from automated/ mechanized milk collection and testing the composition of milk at the village level to real-time milk procurement, assessment of total milk quality parameters, automatic dairy plant operation, and so on. With the click of a button, one can now track data/ information at the farmer level in the milk pool. In addition, technology is making critical inroads to modernize and revolutionize the dairy sector's other major spheres.
The right technology and its proper application are needed to assist the largely unorganized Indian dairy industry to structure itself better. The majority of the pain points, or challenges experienced in handling a perishable commodity such as milk, can only be solved by using technology-based solutions. An attempt is being made to digitize as many data points as possible.
Given below are the areas wherein the role of technology has been acknowledged and adoption is expected to grow further:-
Milk Quality and Freshness: Milk is a perishable commodity. It has a tendency to go stale i.e. undergo adverse irreversible quality deterioration if not chilled in time including pasteurization, freezing, and other preservation methods. Milk can now be detected for freshness and thanks to the advancements in technology; it can be processed in such a way that it can be used for a longer duration. Milk purity, microbial load, adulterants, and shelf life can now all be calculated using technology-based apps and programs at the farmer, dairy plant, and customer levels. A few quality criteria that used to necessitate well-established laboratories, wet chemistry techniques, and time-consuming methodologies are being replaced by technology-driven devices.
Monitoring Supply Chain Systems: Due to its dependence on various factors such as cold temperatures, weather, shelf life, and so on, the dairy supply chain in India is highly complex. Milk is one of those products that need to get to its customers in the best possible condition soonest. As a result, technology plays an important role in ensuring timely distribution, cold chain maintenance, and so on. In addition, the supply chain's participants can efficiently control inventory. The cold chain management system is expected to advance at a breakneck speed. Cold chain systems are now mounted at the shelf level in the malls or marketplace, rather than being confined to insulated/ refrigerated trucks, warehouses, or cold stores/ freezers.
E-commerce Marketplace: Technology is fully responsible for connecting consumers and businesses. On the back end, the seller is linked to the farmers/ suppliers to ensure/ monitor the in-flow of milk. The seller can easily ensure product traceability on both sides of forwarding and backward linkages. Farmers and dairy producers will obtain doorstep services on their smartphones especially with modern equipment and advisory services made possible by technological advancements.
There are numerous initiatives under implementation/ development while technology is gaining acceptance at the farmer level because of its usefulness and ease of adoption, i.e.
Farm Management Systems: A dairy farm must ensure that all of its activities are running smoothly. Farm management systems can assist in the digitization of output and operation processes. Access to energy, a data revolution, and the humble smartphone, with access to wider markets, verifiable knowledge, and high-quality services, are the first steps in empowering farmers. Technology has made it very simple for a farmer to keep track of large herd sizes using an app-based system that can operate on mobile phones. At scale, online payments to farmers are easing operations, providing financial independence, and lowering costs.
Wherein the herd record, performance of cows, managing the breeding cycle, lactation cycle, and vaccination schedule is kept so handy and alerts are generated for a specific activity required at farm/ cow level. There are a few applications that can measure the nutritional needs of cows and feed them accordingly. These programs will automate and digitize a dairy farm's end-to-end operations. Farmers may also track cattle health, diet, lactation, health conditions, pregnancy, and other factors using RFID-based chips in real-time. Robotic milking machines and herd tracking drones are already being used to control vast dairy farms in developing countries.
Product Traceability: Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and knowledgeable about the origins and quality of the foods they eat. The food supply chain's traceability is important for consumer retention. The reason why numbers of dairy producers are turning to technology is to show farmers where their products are going, as well as how the milk is being processed and used. Consumers may also use technology, such as a QR code on their phones, to track how their product was collected, packaged, shipped, and then stored.
The Indian dairy industry is really at an inflection point, with multiple opportunities to broaden its influence around the world. As we witness a radically different global paradigm, the dairy industry can play a crucial role in democratizing India’s entrepreneurship landscape, bringing rural communities into the mainstream. It is imperative that we do full justice to the demographic dividend bestowed upon us, and facilitate innovation, efficiency, and scale for the dairy industry.
(The article has been co-authored by Dr. Ashok Modgil, Head (B2B Milk Operations), MilkLane)