A new state-of-the-art technology could be set to end supply chain problems in the dairy industry that have hit farmer’s incomes, and fowled up processors, amid mutual accusations of cheating, and with no adequate means previously available for analysing and recording the milk bought and sold in the country’s ballooning dairy sector.
The new sampling equipment, which has so far been rolled out in Central and Eastern Kenya since early this year, is being presented as a permanent solution to the disputes that have affected the country’s 600,000 small scale dairy farmers who produce an estimated 2.7 billion litres of milk a year.
The milk analyser creates networked data by connecting the sampling process - through general pocket radio service (GPRS), short message service (SMS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) - to computer records.
It promises to make history of dairy farmers’ accusations that brokers are tampering with the manual records to steal from them, while simultaneously closing the door to any farmer who adds water to the milk - which then goes bad on delivery to the processing plant.
Once a milk sample is placed in a mini milk jar for testing, the gadget attached to the jar detects the different components of the milk, including fat content, added water, solid and fat material, which is then displayed in the gadget’s screen at the touch of a button.
Fitted with a small screen and extended data cartridge, the analyser automatically relays the data from one point, say a collection centre, to the main dairy processing plants.
Once a farmer weighs their milk, and is certified by the milk broker, who is trained by Sunbeam technologies on how to operate the milk analyser, they get a print out indicating the milk they have delivered, including its nutritional value, the quality delivered, the time, their name, the collection point, and how much they are to be paid.
This gives farmers and clerks alike confidence, because the information is verified on the milk right from the collection point, without needing to deliver it and wait for the results from the milk plant.
Agatha Njehu, a farmer now delivering to a collection centre using the analyser, says it is already saving her from the blanket blame farmers have been receiving when the milk goes bad. “If for example someone added water to their milk and the milk goes bad, its hard to know who did so, and so the broker refuses to pay all of us.
We have suffered so much because of this. One dairy farmer can make 50 other farmers not receive their payment, but with this technology our milk is analyzed individually and we no longer have to worry about not receiving the payments,” she said.
According to Santosh Solanki, head of Sunbeam Technologies Ltd which is developing the technology, the milk analyser can automatically relay information through modern day Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to trigger real time results for the sampled milk from any computer server."This shortens the time of processing receipts to farmers common in conventional methods used in the country today," says Solanki.
The analyser also promises to end queues and cut down on time spent on the initial delivery of milk. Each milk analyser has a measuring speed of up to 100 farmers in an hour with an estimated 98 per cent accuracy.
Humphrey Kiganjo a dairy farmer who sells his milk to a broker in Murang’a District notes that a lot has changed since the gadget was introduced. “First things are moving very fast, I take on average fifteen minutes at the collection centre.
The clerks just take a milk sample from my milk, and after a few minutes I get my print out and go home. It was hard to imagine a machine could reduce the time I spent here from one and a half hours queuing to just 15 minutes,” said Kiganjo.
Farmers will also be able to see more about the health of their cow based on the displayed milk content - for example if they are delivering low butter levels or contaminated milk - enabling them to seek timely veterinary interventions.
The technologists suggest it could even bring to an end the country’s regular cycle of milk gluts. "With such technology, the sector would have averted the milk glut, thanks to its easy-to-use and accurate data on annual production of milk in the country.
The data stored from a processing plant can help the dairy sector grow, since its information could be used to predict the future performance, and hence avoid any possible incidences like glut," said Solanki.
Early this year, a milk glut in the market led to the loss of tens of thousands of litres of milk, damaging the incomes of many thousands of farmers.
However, even with the early accolades for the technology, the government is yet to adopt it for use on a wide scale, citing lack of funds. According to the New KCC acting Managing Director Milcah Mugo, the State-processor has no plans of adopting the sampling technology just yet.
"We have an annual budget for packaging technology but not sampling, as it is not our priority," said Mugo in an earlier interview.
Solanki is, however, confident that the benefits for every stakeholder in the dairy sector will, in time, see the technology move in as a permanent replacement to manual collection, and delayed testing and payment.
Newer news items:
- When dead wood is good wood - 01/03/2012 12:27
- Kenyans love for tea push consumption higher - 01/03/2012 11:43
- Coconut rises as commercial crop in coast - 01/03/2012 11:10
- Soybean farming blossoms in growth market - 01/03/2012 10:52
- Basic measures bring huge price gains for coffee co-op farmers - 01/03/2012 10:41
Older news items: