Steve Wangen

Credentials: Assistant Scientist, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery; Data Scientist, American Family Insurance Data Science Institute, UW-Madison

Position title: American Family Insurance Data Science Institute; Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Steve Wangen works with a team of dairy scientists, data scientists, and computer scientists to develop analytical tools that can improve dairy farm profitability, cow productivity, and animal welfare. The Dairy Brain team integrates farm-level data such as feed consumption, milk production, management decisions, and genomic testing. They then apply supervised machine learning approaches, along with other techniques, to provide analytics that can help farmers make decisions about their operations.

Steve is working with team members to build models that can predict milk production over time, approximate a cow’s feed intake, and evaluate the effect of various management decisions on milk production. Other members of the Dairy Brain team are using machine learning techniques to prevent illness in herds. Project researchers are even doing network analyses to understand if the friendships formed between cows can increase milk production.

Steve enjoys using data science to translate research into applied tools that are useful for dairy farmers and other practitioners. In addition to his work on Dairy Brain, Steve is collaborating with UW-Madison colleagues to analyze the use of anonymized campus WIFI signals for COVID-19 contact tracing. If this approach proves effective, it could be rolled out campus-wide and it may have applications for other institutions with large wireless networks.

“Data science can improve dairy productivity in thoughtful ways, not just in terms of how much can we squeeze out of each individual cow, but also thinking about their overall health and well-being.”