Case Study – AgResearch

pureFarming offers digital solution to AgResearch challenge

“The farm staff who use the system regularly find it easy to use, and those who only use it occasionally quickly pick up where they left off with it.”

With over 16,000 head of cattle and sheep spread over 10 farms nationally, AgResearch may surprise many with the scale of its farming operations. Its operations cover all livestock classes, and the research body can claim scale similar to a corporate farming entity. With that is a need to quickly access timely, accurate and relevant information on livestock numbers, health and location.

That is a demand complicated by having assorted groups of animals committed to specific on farm research trials and procedures. These will often require recording over and above the usual day to day data generating tasks like vaccination, drenching and weighing.

Tim Hale, AgResearch’s research farm operations manager at Ruakura started back in 2000 when AgResearch was using the early Endeavour digital recording program. It proved an accurate programme, but one that came with limitations.

“It worked well, but the data was stored on each farm and hard to access centrally. About this time livestock EID was being considered. We knew we were going to have to consider a change to a system that could combine with that.”

An in-house application was developed by AgResearch to record trial animals and delivered for nine years before a loss of platform support compelled Tim and his team to consider a new system.

“We realised with cloud storage, wireless and smartphones things were changing fast and there would be a lot of tools coming that we needed to be able to adapt for. For example with wireless and Bluetooth technology it was going to be possible to directly upload weigh scale data in the field, and we needed to be able to work with that.”

Casting around for new platform options, Tim discussed options with Rezare about the suitability of the company’s pureFarming platform, established for tracking animal performance, genetics and supply chain traceability.

“We could see Andrew and his team had a methodology that enabled us to be able to do what we were asking at AgResearch. They had worked on a programme in the UK that was capable of being adapted for us.

“We required a version that had a “group” function. This enabled us to have animals in mobs but could also allocate those animals to a trial, becoming a secondary mob if you like. We needed to put them into a separate group and record their data as a trial group, not just another mob.”

There were also some customised requests around categorising the wider than usual assortment of animal treatments AgResearch uses on some stock, and how stock deaths were categorised.

Being in close proximity to the Rezare developers in Hamilton helped in the development process. But Tim also found Rezare’s staff very capable of understanding the adaptations AgResearch required, and how they delved into those through a comprehensive whiteboard “discovery” phase.

“It helped we already had the basic platform there, but they also appreciated we needed a few tweaks to it, and accommodated those very well.”

Transferring the livestock data over to go live on the pureFarming platform proved to be a seamless process.

Tim is anticipating the imminent release of a smartphone app to all AgResearch staff that will take the simplicity of data entry and access to another level. It removes the need to be near a PC for data access and entry, and saves doubling up of data entry in tasks like weighing, with data able to be updated directly in the field in a single entry action.

“The farm staff who use the system regularly find it easy to use, and those who only use it occasionally quickly pick up where they left off with it. They appreciate features like being able to enter multiple treatments in one entry, rather than having to enter a treatment, exit and re-enter for another.”

Tim said the subscription cost for the PureFarming system is acceptable given the flexibility, access and timeliness the system
offers, and the service agreement with Rezare ensures a good level of regular, constructive contact when needed.

“Because we are running a corporate structure we needed a system that could amalgamate the data and pull out timely reports that can be easily shared around the organisation – pureFarming does that and a lot more for us.”