FROM remote livestock monitoring and satellite pictures of pasture to the 57 million pieces of information collected last year in Meat Standards Australia carcase grading, the juggernaut that is big data is rolling through the meat and livestock game in a big way.
It has the potential to power every player in the supply chain light years ahead.
But like anything with that sort of capacity, it has to be managed if the industry, as one, is to fully capitalise.
This is the thinking behind moves to develop a ‘Value Chain Digital Strategy’, which Meat and Livestock Australia’s managing director Richard Norton unveiled today at the Red Meat Updates conference in Launceston, Tasmania.
The goals of the strategy were ambitious but the industry ‘needs to start having these conversations’ and MLA was happy to be the thought leader, he said.
The strategy should harness the multitude of new digital technologies right across the value chain to ensure they work together to build prosperity throughout the red meat industry, he said.
As new technologies emerge, particularly in the area of objective measurement, there was an increasing need for an integrated platform, he said.
“Obviously, this industry is already using mega data in a significant way,” he said.
“From the NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) providing information on livestock to the feedlot sector to kill sheets and saleyard market reports through to consumer insights surveys, it is having an increasing impact,” Mr Norton said.
“If we don’t start co-ordinating all that, there is a real risk end up with a siloed, dysfunctional platform.
“We have a genetics database in the form of Estimated Breeding Values in Armidale, the NLIS in Sydney and MSA in Brisbane.
“The first step could be to link those three to one single sign-on for the producer.”
It was possible other industries - banking and telecommunications for example - might start to launch their own solutions for those in the beef and sheep meat business.
“We need to make it clear we want one single source of truth - one platform for them to hang their value propositions on,” Mr Norton said.
Improved communication would increase the capacity of industry players, whether they were producers, processors, exporters or retailers, to embrace new technology and use meaningful data in their business, he said.
“While our Australian industry enjoys significant natural advantages, increasing competition within our domestic and export markets and input costs that are consistently higher than all of our major international competitors mean it is imperative for our industry to work smarter,” Mr Norton said.
“This is putting the peg in the ground - what we are hoping to achieve will take nine or ten years to put in place,” he said.
The message to the producer on the big data front was don’t panic.
“If you are the most sophisticated farmer trying to understand how you can increase eating quality to the consumer through genomics or if you put just 40 head a year through the saleyard, data can be used to benefit you,” he said.
“What this is looking to do is ensure there is one platform easily accessed by all stakeholders.”
The Red Meat Updates, now in its third year, is a producer-driven initiative that provides a forum where Tasmania’s leading red meat producers can gain a snapshot of key industry research findings, resources and tools, training options and technological innovations.
More than 300 attended the event today.