The adoption of on-farm technology has shifted the production potential of livestock, creating a more competitive agricultural landscape that has created enormous pressure on farm transparency.
With notions like ‘Paddock to Plate’ farmers have a large responsibility to be transparent, not only to educate the public on where and how their livestock is produced but also to avoid diseases like Mad Cow. There are even greater efforts on governments to better understand the traceability and transparency through the livestock food chain. Both can be held accountable for disease outbreaks and national food crises.
In the UK Mad Cow disease or BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) decimated a whole meat production industry for years. Measures were taken by the government to cushion the effects of the crisis and in 1996 the UK banned all cattle over 30 months of age from entering the food chain. This created economic losses between an estimated £740 million and £980 million, which is an equivalent of 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent of UK’s national income at that time.
Since the crisis the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and the Meat and Livestock Association (MLA) have been trying to better understand how to avoid another outbreak of Mad Cow and other livestock related diseases.
A key element that keeps coming back is transparency. To be completely transparent means all data needs to be collected, analysed, stored and shared so that any changes in livestock can be maintained, minimised, and prevented.
Melbourne startup AgriWebb has created a livestock management solution with full data transparency to capture information and help farmers make smarter farming decisions. The agritech startup uses an enotebook to take the pain out of cattle and sheep record keeping, allowing farmers to focus on their enterprise rather than audits and compliance.
Mobile data recording also give farmers the ability to create records while working in their paddock. E-notebooks look to eliminate paperwork and the burdens of handwritten reports.
Cofounder of AgriWebb Justin Webb said the startup is able to capture critical information from genetics through to inoculations, movements, weight gains, treatments and all the way through to sales and processing.
“We open up an opportunity for Australian livestock to be really the premier offering globally,” he said.
AgriWebb has three types of management solutions: mob (as in herd) management, crop and pasture management, and multiple user task management. Within each management the app generates metrics, builds a property map with drag and drop features, links for multiple users, cloud backup, and automatic notifications.
The ‘mob’ management solution tracks all critical records for stock management including weight gains, medical treatments, pregnancy, marking rates, condition score, shearing costs etc. A detailed map on the NoteBook shows every animal type, stock counts, tag colours, withholding periods and paddock information.
The ‘pasture and crop’ management records all paddock history including sprays, fertilisers, seed, sow and harvest records with colour codes for easier visual management. Paddock maps are updated through the online portal which allows paddocks to be added in seconds.
The ‘multiple user task’ management keeps track of tasks and manages workers across the farming property. Tasks can be assigned with due dates to specify priority and ensure jobs are completed at the right time. A task icon can be dragged and dropped on the map to locate issues for workers or contractors and automatic notifications and warnings can inform which items are urgent.
The AgriWebb NoteBook is a Samsung Tab A tablet with a pre-installed version of the AgriWebb application. On purchase, users also have access to an online portal, however the day to day usage of the NoteBook doesn’t require network connectivity so farmers can enter information offline which can be synced and stored to the AgriWebb cloud once online.
The price of these tablets start from $1,100 for an eight inch and then an additional $400 for the creation of farm map. A monthly subscription fee is required for all AgriWebb NoteBook and online portal users, which varies depending on the level of service and support needed.
AgriWebb is part of a plan to bring technology to an industry that has traditionally been highly resourceful and is yet to be oversaturated with tech applications.
“There is a perception that farmers tend to not really understand technology or not be tech-savvy. I disagree with that, I think that they are incredibly resourceful, it’s just that there hasn’t been a great deal of focus on the livestock side of farming,” said Webb.
“The real challenge for us has been to fundamentally understand our user and build the product such as it is a solution, before taking the initiative to drive the data and the information and the feedback to give those users a better experience and expand into other offerings for the industry.”
Webb said the idea of AgriWebb started from his own family who have five generations of experience of livestock farming from rural Queensland, right down to the western district of Victoria. Webb admitted his family was struggling to capture information and leverage data to make better on farm decisions.
“When looking across the competitive landscape of offering, we realised that most solutions were very, very complex and not at all intuitive and furthermore the data management software that existed didn’t go any step towards actually giving intuitive feedback. So the information entered would stare back at you rather than actually be delivered as actionable suggestions for improvement,” he explained.
Webb said prior to AgriWebb there have been attempts to streamline farming data and processes, however he believes there has been a lack of attention to usability and intuitive mobile accessibility.
“So what we have done is very much built our platform from a basis of how the farmer actually thinks and how the farmer actually runs their execution on a day-to-day basis.”
The team at AgriWebb spent close to 18 months speaking with over a thousand different farms and farm consultants from both very large farms like AACo and Paraway Pastoral Co to the very small hobby farmers with only a hundred or so acres.
Universally AgriWebb heard and understood the problems faced by farmers in the livestock industry and assembled a team of developers and UX experts to build a software that was based on farmers needs and wants.
To showcase the potential of AgriWebb and bring in clients, the team approaches farmers through field days and also calls into pub nights to bring everyone together in a more relaxed environment. On pub nights AgriWebb discusses the problems in the livestock industry and offers the app as a solution.
Webb has a practical and realistic approach to the market; he doesn’t expect to put the app on the App Store and receive five million downloads. He prides himself on the technology that has been delivered and more importantly on making strong and direct connections with the farming community.
As a way to drive sales further the startup has also made some strategic connections with existing Salesforce companies in Australia, which includes banks and pharmaceutical companies who are seeking to get a deeper connection with their customers.
While starting off in Australia, Webb has his sights firmly set on going global. He said that internationally livestock management is a desperately needed solution. With Australia and New Zealand at the forefront of productivity and animal livestock farming, AgriWebb has enormous growth potential.
“With the sole exception perhaps of the United Kingdom as a result of their BSE crisis, the traceability here is actually quite good, but it’s by proving the product here and demonstrating the value-add that we have done already to our existing clients and to our new clients.”
“We are constantly being asked about our expansion, both to the United States, which is the world’s largest cattle herd, and also to Latin America and to the UK.”
Currently AgriWebb is focusing on its home market in Australia and wants to establish a strong partnership with the Australian Agricultural Network and with local farmers.
“We believe that proof of product at home is quite often something that’s undervalued by startups looking to grow, perhaps quicker than their abilities might suggest, but there’s certainly an agenda for us to expand internationally within the 18 months timeframe.”
Image: AgriWebb Team. Source: Supplied.