Dairying is a key part of the Canadian economy, with recent estimates of close to $10 billion from the sale of dairy products. Canada also provides more than 20% of the world's dairy genetics. Since the predominant Holstein breed is by no means unique to Canada, her quality of genetic programs (in use since 1905), coupled with excellent management factors and an openness to innovation, have ensured her position as a world leader in this industry. With an exponential growth in available information, we are faced with the growing challenge of filtering, interpreting, and utilizing data by extracting them from the so-called info-fog and exploiting them for on-farm decision support.
Bolstered by significant improvements in the area of computer technology (both software and hardware), there are numerous techniques that have evolved from information technology, and specifically, artificial intelligence, that can help in this task - many of which are being examined by the Dairy Information Systems Group at McGill. These include general data-mining approaches, including artificial neural networks, for pattern detection and prediction; fuzzy-logic based expert systems for more flexible decision making; machine-learning techniques for expert knowledge capture; Internet technologies for data integration; interactive data visualization for management and the detection of abnormalities, etc.).
These are exciting new areas which combine the essential but more traditional concepts of management with futuristic methods of application and, more importantly, implementation.
The Dairy Information Systems Group consists of researchers working towards the advancement of information technology in dairy management systems. Studies range from the theoretical examination of knowledge systems to the analysis of mega data sets and the development of software prototypes for on-farm decision support.