Milk Transport Security to Be Tested

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 11, 2009) -- A wireless computerized system to protect milk from cow to consumer will be tested later this month in New York State, nearly four years after University of Kentucky Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Professor Fred Payne and colleague Chris Thompson began its development with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant funded through the National Institute for Hometown Security.

Payne and his research team will travel to Mohawk, N.Y., where drivers with Richard Obreza Trucking Inc. will be trained on the system. After a week of training, the drivers will begin a month long test of the system.

"The system totally automates milk data collection from the farm to the dairy processor. It  improves accountability because only authorized personnel are allowed access to the milk during its transport, and their access will be recorded," Thompson said.

"In addition, the system provides milk traceability from the silo at the dairy processor back to the dairy farms. A multitude of other data-access automation features will be available from the Web-based software developed with the system," Payne said.

Payne and Thompson received $1.5 million in January 2006 after proposing the system. Food safety became a major issue in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because of concerns about deliberate contamination of food stocks.

That first grant supported the development of a functioning prototype system. In August 2008, Payne and his team received a second grant for $1.3 million to advance the prototype into a marketplace-ready system.

The system uses a handheld computer that receives data on milk weight, milk temperature, pick-up time and other information. The handheld computer then relays that information to a data server and makes it available over the Internet.    

"Information on bulk milk collection and transport is collected, stored in the database and made easily available to those concerned with milk security," Payne said.

The New York tests will monitor milk-data collection automation at dairy farms that are part of the milk marketing agencies  Agri-Mark, Inc. and Dairy Marketing Services Eastern Region.

In late October Payne and his team will perform a second and last performance evaluation test in Kentucky that will utilize electronic locks on the milk tanker.

“It is our hope that this work will lead to the improvement of the security infrastructure of the Unites States,” Payne said.