Development of a practical data management system with embedded sensors for improved environmental management and transparency of dairy farming


Agri-food systems enabled by interconnected digital technologies that are more transparent to consumers, farmers and other stakeholders along the agri-food value chain.



Europe's agri-food sector is in a state of change related to societal, economic and environmental demands, which progressively increase the system’s complexity. Digital technologies are a key instrument to quantify and manage this complexity, but their uptake has been slow in the past due to high costs, technical constraints and missing incentives to collect and share data. Our project brings together companies, academic research institutions and universities to foster information flow in dairy farms and way down to the consumers and other interest groups in the milk value chain via a web application. We will expand and validate an existing semi-commercial data management system with embedded sensors for environmental monitoring in dairy cattle barns. We will evaluate options to incorporate data from external sensor systems and the potential of a further reduced sensor system as an entry-level version for very small farms. We will demonstrate our system in multiple countries representing various technological, climatological and socioeconomical boundary conditions. We will analyse and improve the connectivity performance on case study farms and study expectations and information needs of different potential data users along the milk value chain. We will develop a scoring methodology to extract relevant information from the data to be considered in data filtering and aggregation algorithms. Finally, we will design and test a modular web application to provide information tailored to the different interest groups. We will further evaluate how farmers may benefit from transferring environmental information directly from farms to different interest groups. Our data management systems with embedded sensors and target-group specific information flow shall allow different end-users to understand better how individual choices (e.g., herd management or product preferences) affect animal welfare, environment and food security. Hence, it may affect product marketing and economic performance of farms, improve product quality, and strengthen farmers' capabilities to adapt to structural changes.



Many sensor technologies available for dairy housing, particularly when it comes to emission monitoring, are expensive for farmers. At the same time, they are often limited to a small range of applications with limited access to the raw data as the data sovereignty often lies with the sensor-providing company. Additionally, the IT infrastructure at the farms often lacks sufficient computing power and flexibility for processing and storing data on-farm. In terms of sharing, processed on-farm data confidentiality is an additional constraint for many farmers as the added value is not always directly visible and thus incentives for transparency are missing. It is also not yet clear which data or information will be the most relevant to share with different interest groups.


Main project activities

    • Validate an existing data management system with embedded sensors in a dairy cattle barn that is extensively used for emission and animal welfare research
    • Evaluate options to incorporate data from external sensor systems (e.g., milking system) in order to expand the data management system and reduce uncertainties
    • Evaluate the potential of a further reduced sensor system as an entry-level version for very small farms
    • Assess opportunities for improving connectivity performance at farming sites and methods for ensuring efficient data collection and distribution at different agriculture sites
    • Study expectations and needs of different data users, to be considered in the data filtering and aggregation algorithm
    • Develop a methodology to create target-group tailored reports
    • Design and test applications to provide information for different target groups
    • Evaluate how farmers may benefit from transferring environmental information directly from farms to consumers and other interest groups to create incentives for data and information sharing


    Expected social impact

    The project will increase the accessibility and addressability of on-farm data to beneficiaries. Therefore, social diagnosis will permits the design of target-group tailored reports. In the context of data management, data security and data protection the project will contribute to ongoing international efforts to standardise on-farm data collection, including remote accessibility and automated joint processing of large amounts of data in different formats. In addition, best practice reports on improving connectivity performance at farming sites will be provided, which may support the development of rual areas in general. The information compilation and distribution via ET4D will contribute to achieve multiple of the UN sustainable development goals, particularly the goals Zero hunger (2), Good Health and Well-being (3), Responsible Consumption and Production (12), Climate Action (13) and Life on Land (15).



      • Dairy cattle
      • Environmental monitoring
      • Data management
      • Social diagnosis
      • Tailored reporting


      Project coordinator

      Dr. Sabrina Hempel - Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy, ATB, Germany



      • HUNGARY: AgHiTech Ltd, AgHiTech
      • DENMARK: Innvite ApS, INNVITE
      • ESTONIA: Estonian University of Life Sciences, EMU
      • ISRAEL: MIGAL Galilee Technology Center, MIGAL
      • POLAND: University of Zielona Góra, UZ
      • HUNGARY: AKI Agrárközgazdasági Intézet Nonprofit Kft./ The Institute of Agricultural Economics Nonprofit Kft., AKI
      • FINLAND: University of Oulu, Centre for Wireless Communications - Networks and Systems, UOULU
      • POLAND: Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, UPWr
      • DENMARK: Department of Engineering, AU


      Expected project start date and end date

      The ET4D project starts on 1 October 2023 and runs until April 2026.