When talking with people outside of the agriculture industry, it is not uncommon to be told that farmers are simple and not very savvy when it comes to technology. This is always a clear sign that the person has no idea about what today’s modern producers are actually like. In reality, producers are an innovative, technologically-aware group of people. Even more so than the average person living in the city.
Globally, producers are constantly finding new ways to reduce labour costs through the implementation of process-automating systems and technologies. Failure to do so means being left behind. When producers look at new livestock production solutions and technologies, they make their assessment based on how it will improve overall efficiency and value for money. Because of the need to efficiently reduce labour, these systems need to be easy to implement – to work for the producer, not the other way around.
The big technology shift for farmers is coming from livestock medication compliance, where we are steadily moving in a direction in which all livestock will have complete medication traceability. Right now we are only partially there.
Creating livestock medication traceability from within
To effectively implement a system of this type, there needs to be a great deal of support from within the industry. When a system is forced upon an industry from the outside, it rarely gets welcomed with open arms. On a practical level, it does not properly integrate into the systems already in use.
The reason for this is obvious when you think about it. When you develop a system from within you are developing a system by the industry for the industry. There are no hidden surprises as the system will be thoroughly tested. When it comes to the regulatory bodies all they have to do is change their regulations.
Working from outside-in is a completely different situation. You end up with panel experts, typically with little or no industry experience, creating a system with no practical application. They’ll set up field trials with groups who don’t represent the industry as a whole.
The end result is a system like NLIS, which works great in theory but doesn’t have the back-end smarts to properly update and cater for the entire industry. This example isn’t an exception. There are many failed attempts from this backward way of thinking.
Future livestock production solutions
I think that if we were to step back and look at the next 10 years, visualizing the future producer, we would already have a clear picture of the type of systems they would need. Solutions such as mobile reception and cloud-based offerings, that will become more readily available across remote agriculture areas. Not to mention further advances in the automation of livestock processes such as robotics and artificial intelligence.
These advances will further help the industry record and distribute data to the regulatory bodies and customers that require it. In other words, as livestock producers adopt cloud-based solutions as the base livestock management system, data will be automatically provided. This would be a system that is working for everyone.
Standing still is falling behind
However, for the livestock producers who do not adopt, they will be penalized with lower prices. Producers who are able to provide this data will be able to receive a higher premium for their livestock produce.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the small farmer gets a raw deal. What it does mean is that the industry will drive the change organically and those who don’t follow the market pull will simply be left behind. This would be a pure industry effect, not a consequence of government regulations.
If the entire industry could achieve this, the result would surely be a win-win proposition. The consumer receives the necessary information and the producer receives a more efficient and cost-effective solution.
– David Edwards