Assessing the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) within agriculture is the focus of investigation for 2024 Nuffield Scholar, Paul Windemuller.

The first generation dairy farmer from Michigan in the United States is currently visiting Ireland as a member of a Nuffield Scholars’ group from seven different countries.

The Windemuller herd comprises 230 cows, milked robotically. They are managed within a total confinement system, however, young stock are grazed on the farm.

The business was established nine years ago.

Windemullar said: “I believe there is tremendous potential to use artificial intelligence in a number of ways within the dairy and other ruminant sectors.

“Opportunities to avail of the technology will allow the more efficient development of farming business

“It can be specifically used from an animal identification perspective and to manage staff working within a farming business more effectively.”

Artificial intelligence

Looking to the future, Windemuller is looking at developing his own business interests in one of two ways to expand the current dairy farming operation or to develop bespoke AI-related solutions for agriculture as a new and separate venture.

“At the moment, the potential of further developing AI solutions as a new business opportunity looks very attractive,” he said.

The Nuffield group is currently visiting Ireland to get a sense of how farming plays a role at the heart of the Irish economy.

Their itinerary included a recent visit to the Co. Antrim sheep farm of Campbell Tweed and is wife Isobel. Ballycoose farm is situated close to the village of Carncastle, overlooking the Irish Sea

The Nuffield group were given an insight into the work carried out on the farm to develop an efficient wool shedding sheep operation.

The Tweed farm is home to 3,000 EasyCare and Wiltshire Horn ewes. All of the sheep within the flock are performance recorded on a continuous basis. Allied to this, is the application of a rigorous breeding programme.

This combined approach is allowing Campbell Tweed to secure significant and consistent levels of performance within the flock.

The focus of the business is to secure the highest level of efficiency in both terms of the sheep within the flock and the management input required to make this happen.

The EasyCare is a composite breed of sheep comprising mostly Welsh Mountain and Wiltshire Horn bloodlines.

It was developed almost 60 years ago from animals specifically selected for their wool shedding and polled traits.

The entire Ballycoose operation is managed by just three full-time staff.