Main research question
If dairy farmers in Europe want to take the most efficient measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they will need, among others: 1. Reliable up-to-date and region-specific information on various possible mitigating measures and their performance in reality. 2. A system to monitor the climate in dairy farms so that emission levels can be recorded under widely varying conditions. Both needs are being addressed in the MilKey research project. The goal is the successful implementation of effective mitigating measures for greenhouse gas emissions in European and Flemish dairy farming. In Flanders, the climate policy plan 2021-2030 (2018) contains commitments to reduce the climate impact of the agriculture and horticulture sector. In doing so, it certainly also counts on the individual farms. MilKey is an IWT LA trajectory within the framework of the 2018 Joint Call of 3 H2020 ERA-NETs (FACCE ERA-GAS, ERA-NET SusAn, ICT-AGRI 2).
Two main aspects are being developed: dissemination and technique. First, we aim at making region-specific information available to Flemish and European dairy farmers via an online information platform, more specifically on the implementation of mitigating measures for greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to general information, there will also be calculation tools to calculate the impact of the measures. In the technical part, which ILVO coordinates, we are developing a real-time monitoring system for the barn climate, which is at least able to generate warnings of sub-optimal climate conditions via a web-based tool, but which ideally can fully automatically control the indoor climate. The parameters are temperature, rainfall and wind speed, but also gas concentrations of e.g. CO2, ammonia and if possible also methane. Importantly, the extra parameter animal welfare, more specifically heat stress, will be included. We plan to test the monitoring system in the making (called OTICE ) in Flanders and at the different practical companies in the partner countries.
We expect MilKey to respond to the growing demand for continuous emission monitoring at barn level. The farmer will have a better insight into the impact of barn management (measures) and the 3P sustainability criteria (people, planet, profit). Choices and interventions can be visualised, analysed and, if necessary, adjusted. Moreover, the information platform offers customisation at the level of an individual farm. The combination of real-time monitoring tools and the information platform gives the dairy farmer a direct feel for the climate problem and the own farm's impact on it. This considerably increases the chance of successful implementation of mitigating measures and also gives the dairy farmer an instrument to communicate with stakeholders (customers, retail, policy, local residents, etc.). For OTICE, we aim for a solid basis that can be developed into a commercial product. The practical experiences of OTICE in combination with certain emission-reducing techniques will be visible in the online platform.