UPDATED with latest info (thanks FarmIQ)
Congratulations to FarmIQ, which achieved urban recognition for some very smart red meat farming technology when it won the Discovering Gold category of the Wellington Gold Awards last week.
The 800 or so guests at the award event were told in the award brochure that the FarmIQ System is cloud-based farm management software that integrates information about paddocks, animals and feed. Farmers can work with an app offline and with a range of data capture devices, data suppliers and third-party specialists software. They can follow an individual animal’s performance from birth to carcase – a significant development for New Zealand’s red meat industry.
“The FarmIQ System gives farmers smart information technology that they can use to efficiently produce consistently high-quality meat and meet compliance requirements. It also brings the farmer and their farm management to the centre of the farm software scene,” said chief information officer Mark Johnstone.
The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research estimated in 2009 that achieving the overall FarmIQ vision would grow New Zealand’s GDP by an additional $1.1 billion by late 2017 – and an additional $8.8 billion by 2025.
Delivering consistently high quality meat cuts
FarmIQ says the system has been developed to help the industry deliver consistently high-quality meat cuts to export markets and better profitability for farmers.
“We see this as the key to developing sustainable returns for sheep, beef and deer farming, which is particularly important for long-term viability of hill country farming in New Zealand,” says FarmIQ chief executive Collier Isaacs.
FarmIQ contracted IT company Fronde, based on the Wellington Waterfront, to develop the software. The original brief was for over 1,200 high-level user stories (each representing a user need that would be addressed through the software). The core functionality took 22 months to build and was completed in May 2014.
For individual farmers, the FarmIQ System is an information hub: enabling comparisons and benchmarking of farm performance including meat quality; providing them with linkages to the red meat consumer; and supporting their planning and decision-making.
“The FarmIQ System shows what is possible when agribusiness expertise and networking is teamed with IT capability and leading-edge software solutions,” says Isaacs. “It’s providing farmers and the industry with some really good tools.
“We’ve focused on making sure it’s simple, practical and relevant for farmers. We’ve worked closely with them at every step of the development.”
He says the system is flexible so farmers can use it to help achieve their own goals. “At its simplest they can use it as a handy diary and task planner on a mobile. Beyond that, they can also use it to record a range of inputs and measurements of paddock and animal performance and then apply the analysis and reporting tools. It also includes an interactive farm map.
“It is mostly used by drystock farmers, with some dairy farmers testing it. It is also useful for rural professionals who work with farmers, such as vets and advisors.”
The system is being integrated with some specialist farm software, including Cashmanager Rural financial software and Farmax feed budgeting software so farmers only have to enter information once.
FarmIQ was established by Silver Fern Farms, Landcorp Farming Limited and Tru-Test in 2010 and was awarded a funding grant through the Primary Growth Partnership in September 2010, which brought the Ministry for Primary Industries on board as a co-funder for seven years. The company is running five development projects, including the FarmIQ System.
FarmIQ employs 26 fulltime and part-time staff, including people based in Wellington and in regional centres.
The software development team also included Wellington company Pikselin which was subcontracted to provide user interface design and Wellington company E-Spatial which was sub-contracted to provide the geospatial elements. Through the development stages, FarmIQ has worked closely with companies manufacturing farm measuring devices and also specialist software to arrange data sharing.
As at end of January 2015, live animal numbers on the System were over 2.3 million: 1,953,000 sheep; 280,000 cattle and 99,800 deer.
The FarmIQ System has broken new ground in several ways. The key points of difference are:
- Cloud-based farm management software – One of the first to offer software as a service (SaaS) to farmers
- Bringing together all aspects of the farm in a single software system, for the first time
- Early adopter of HTML5 technology – enabling offline functionality for farmers, who often have limited internet access across their farm
- Capable of integration with a range of devices and software, including data capture devices, data suppliers and third-party specialist rural software
- An off-line/online integrated companion mobile app
- Providing red meat farmers with the ability to view information about a single animal from its birth to its carcase performance – a hugely significant new development for the New Zealand red meat industry – and it is linked to the potential to supply more animals into premium marketing programmes and earn higher returns
- Supported by teams working with red meat farmers to explore the potential for measuring and monitoring, in particular through use of EID-tagging technology that enables individual animal management
- Enables beef and deer farmers to get more value from the EID tagging that they are required by law to do as part of the National Animal Identification and Traceability (NAIT) programme, by also using the tags to better understand animal performance
- Giving farmers good information that they can use to produce consistently high-quality meat (where other research projects have focused more on aspects such as disease resistance or quantity)
- Integration with processor grading and payment systems, as illustrated by the BeefEQ programme, which features reporting through the FarmIQ System and payment of premiums for animals that make the grade.