Fonterra – internet 4.0 from cow to consumer

NZ dairy giant Fonterra is embracing the industrial internet from cow to consumer, according to Dave McPherson, infrastructure and global IS engagement manager.

Speaking at the Industrial Internet 4.0 conference in Sydney, McPherson outlined the power of cheap IoT sensors installed in multiple locations.

Monitoring and data gathering begins on the farm for Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, where soil moisture is monitored and fed back to control irrigation.

“This has brought a 50 per cent saving in water use,” he said.

But the milk is the biggest focus for Fonterra’s industry 4.0 efforts with cows wearing ‘fitbits’ that monitor activity and grazing and help boost milk production.

Once milked, temperatures in milk vats on-farm are measured to ensure milk is rapidly cooled to remain healthy.

More than 10,500 vats are monitored for temperature and volume with real-time data fed back to determine the optimal routes for the company’s fleet of 598 milk tankers.

The tankers themselves are monitored at various points internally.

Monitoring showed that milk heating was occurring from heat radiated from the roads rather from above from the Sun as had been believed.

Hot spots in the tankers and their pipework have been eliminated by adding external coatings.

McPherson said: “Our tankers are really rolling laboratories.

“Our trucks are not refrigerated, so this helps control milk quality in transit.”

Once in the processing plant, utilising cheap off the shelf IoT sensors became an issue as dairy plants have so much stainless steel equipment that they cut out internet signals.

The company responded by installing internal networks, often Bluetooth based, to monitor milk production.

Fonterra collects more than 430,000 data points in its manufacturing network of 50 plants.

Capturing and analysing that data has helped reduce maintenance, which used to be performed routinely across the operation in winter, to an as-needed basis.

“There are really big savings here.”

Finally temperatures in stores and location and humidity in containers bound for export markets are monitored and compared to customer complaints.

“Increasingly customers want full traceability of their food,” McPherson said.

Picture: Fonterra

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