U Kentucky researchers demonstrate milk transportation safety system

Published 10 October 2008

Wildcats researchers develop a milk tracking system which will dramatically improve the safety of bulk milk transport

You may recall that a couple of years ago a Stanford University study said that one way for terrorism to conduct a mass-casualty attack on the United States was to have a couple of terrorists apply for jobs in a large diary and then pour poison into the milk. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture researchers have been heading up a project aimed at improving food safety and defense measures associated with bulk milk transport. As an added bonus, their efforts are streamlining the information gathering process associated with farm milk pickups and deliveries. On 9 October researchers demonstrated the Milk Transport and Traceability Security System in Lexington to show the prototype’s potential to meet the needs of dairy processors, milk marketing agencies and milk transportation companies.

Key components of the system include a small, user-friendly, hand-held computer device a hauler will use to enter typical milk ticket information. The hand-held device will provide the hauler with the most up-to-date information regarding pickup scheduling and logistics, among other data. The tanker itself will be outfitted with a computer processor to store the milk data. Other key components on the tanker include a Global Position System unit, locks on the dome lid and rear door, a key pad to enter security codes when the hand-held device is not available and temperature sensors for the sample cooler and cargo.

The system is designed to incorporate security and accountability with the electronic locks, which will interact with other parts of the system to only allow legitimate users, such as a milk hauler, inspector, etc., access to the tanker,” said Chris Thompson, UK Regulatory Services milk coordinator. “Access to the tanker is thoroughly documented, and inappropriate access will be ‘red flagged’ for the system users,” said Fred Payne, UK biosystems and agricultural engineering professor.

Information typically recorded on the milk ticket, tanker wash tag, and other documentation will be entered into the handheld device. This information will be accumulated, tracked and provided to appropriate individuals who are using the system, Thompson added.

Payne and Thompson have been guiding a team of researchers from UK, Western Kentucky University, and the University of Louisville in the project. DHS through the National Institute For Hometown Security in Somerset funded the initial $1.5 million project and announced additional funds of nearly $1.2 million for future development. “The Department of Homeland Security’s Kentucky Critical Infrastructure Protection Program focuses on new technology to underpin the nation’s capacity to safeguard against terrorist threats,” said Ewell Balltrip, president and chief executive officer of the National Institute For Hometown Security. “The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Milk Transport Security System exemplifies the program’s mission to discover, develop and deploy these assets for the benefit of hometowns across the country. This system has attributes that address not only security concerns, but business concerns. While designed as a system to safeguard milk as it is transported from the dairy farm to the processing plant, it also delivers business benefits related to information gathering and processing. We think this combination will be attractive to end-users.”

Agriculture associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station Nancy Cox said the new funding will allow researchers to fine tune the system in the next year.The specific objectives for the continuation project include:

  • Optimization of the hardware and electronics for the security monitoring system
  • Development of an enterprise quality data server system
  • Development of commercial quality Web-based software
  • Demonstration of the system for a one month period