Open Menu

Podcast: Talk about smart food

Professor Dara’s expertise on big data and privacy is in high demand from all industries from all around the world, including dairy farmers.

One thing that’s very important to understand is that Big Data is an asset, people say it’s the new oil.

Big data is changing our lives from every aspect of you know how we interact, societal norms, and also technology, how we make food, how smart our houses, how smart our community… the impact is everywhere.

Professor Rozita Dara on Big Data

TRANSCRIPT

You’re listening to University of Guelph’s Food Institute podcast — the hub for exciting and innovative food research.

I’m your host Catherine Jheon. Each episode we’ll put the spotlight on a fascinating field of food research and the people behind it.

This episode is all about how big data is transforming food and agriculture.

Big Data is a buzzy concept that gets thrown around a lot. It seems everyone from dairy farmers to Apple executives are talking about it. I’m here at University of Guelph searching for Rozita Dara who’s an expert in the field.

Hi Professor Dara.. nice to meet you.

She ends up finding me and we make our way to her sparsely decorated office.

Thank you for coming all this way. My name is Rozita Dara in the faculty of computer science at University of Guelph. My research is in the area of big data and privacy.

Professor Dara specializes in big data. And we’re talking BIG.

The Internet, our smartphones and even our refrigerators are collecting data at an increasing rate. Just think of all the emails, texts, photos and videos that’s generated every second of every day.

According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – that’s 18 —   are created daily. What’s more — and I found this fascinating — 90 percent of all data was created in the last two years.

Put another way if we take all the data generated in the world between the beginning of time until 2008, in the not too distant future the same amount of data will be generated every minute!

That is big data.

Big data is changing our lives from every aspect of you know how we interact, societal norms, and also technology, how we make food, how smart our houses, how smart our community… the impact is everywhere.

And given I’m working at University of Guelph obviously I couldn’t resist working on subject area related to agriculture, animal health, food and here I am… with many research projects in these areas.

Professor Dara is part of a movement that’s revolutionizing food and agriculture. It’s just that instead of tractors, combines and harvesters, she’s using algorithms, sensors and computers.

Take for example her work with the Swedish company Delaval — one of the biggest dairy and farming machine companies in the world.

They want to analyze big data and identify patterns within the data there will be the chance of this cow getting a specific disease which is called mastitis and it’s one of the most expensive ones producers have to deal so if you can predict it in advance and warn them. They will save a lot and also the cow won’t suffer from pain and lastly they won’t use that much antibiotics which is good for the environment.

Professor Dara is also using big data to help mushroom farmers.

The goal of that is to automate mushroom picking. Because right now the working environment is not pleasant. It’s humid, it’s dark and they have to bend down so they can’t see so for now our goal is to give an algorithm to guide human to pick the right mushroom to know when mushroom is ready for picking. The next phase will be take that algorithm and put it in a robot and the whole production line of mushroom production will change to enable robots to just move on top of all those mushrooms and do all that automatically.

Who knew that by crunching big data you could have better farming conditions, improve lives of animal and increase crop production.  And it doesn’t stop there. According Professor Dara, we’ll soon be able to trace any product in our grocery stores back to the farm and beyond with significant implications.

There will be a code on top of what you purchase so by scanning that you will know what time, which slaughter house, we can even look at climate data at the time, the temperature where these foods we kept. So we can trace back food quality and we can do control and to risk management.

That means that if there is evidence of contamination in the food supply chain you could pinpoint it back to the source… in real time. Mining all this data could prevent a potential outbreak and save hundreds of lives.

Professor Dara’s expertise on big data and privacy is in high demand from all industries from all around the world.

That means she gets to work on projects that are leading the way in food and agriculture innovation.

I mean it’s very exciting for me what I can do and the amount of projects that comes towards us and we have the luxury to choose and say I’m interested in this specific project.

That was University of Guelph’s Professor Rozita Dara. She’s looking at how big data is impacting food and agriculture.  

The Food Institute podcast was edited by Ashley Walters and written, produced and hosted by me, Catherine Jheon. Thanks for listening.