AHEAD OF TARGET: Animal numbers involved in FarmIQ are high enough for the depth of data necessary for the first phase of the programme, says chief executive Collier Isaacs.
FarmIQ last week issued its second year Annual Insights document that reports 425 farmers in the programme, ahead of the 200 targeted for the end of year two.
Sheep and cattle are also significantly up on the initial 250,000 for the two-year plan, to 360,000 with cattle tracking ahead at 51,000, up from the predicted 50,000.
Deer have not gone so well with just 9000 in the programme from the 60,000 predicted.
FarmIQ is a Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) research and development programme focused on connecting consumer needs to farmer supply, so everyone makes money.
The four principal partners are Silver Fern Farms, Landcorp, TruTest and Ministry for Primary Industries with the $151 million scheme 61% funded by industry and 39% MPI funded.
From a standing start two years ago the programme is making pleasing progress, both programme-wide and within each project, it said. The first year was very much about setting up for success over its seven-year lifespan.
The numbers targeted for the end of year two at around 2% of the respective industries’ animal numbers, was a level high enough for the depth of data necessary for the first phase of the programme, FarmIQ chief executive Collier Isaacs said.
The number planned for deer, at 60,000, was considerably in advance of that target and hence the disparity between the planned and the actual.
The programme has six key projects: Management, market analysis, processing, genomics, farm productivity and database.
The goal is to fully integrate the core elements of the chain to develop new products that sell in international markets significantly above the current commodity prices, with farmers producing animals to specification and numbers to fully capitalise on this, Isaacs said.
The FarmIQ Annual Insights goes into detail on the respective projects and shows solid progress in processing information and technology, but with in-line quality measurement still proving to be a challenge.
The pilot marketing of branded products in Europe shows solid premiums are achievable with genetics work looking to new levels of SNP DNA testing intensity. There have been strong IQ farm performance gains and the development of the database is on time and budget.
The programme’s first phase, design and research, runs until the launch of the new farm management system database in 2013. This is followed by the pilot phase in years four and five, and the refinement phase in the final two years. The seven-year programme is designed to be self-sustaining by 2017.
The value of the programme was in highlighting gaps in knowledge necessary to make the red meat value chain seamless, as in testing assumptions and trialling new techniques on-farm, in processing plants and in market.
At the core of the programme are the seven IQ Farms within the farm productivity project. “The biggest development in terms of on-farm productivity over the past 12 months has been the bedding-in of the steering groups on each IQ Farm.”
The biggest single development within FarmIQ in its third year will be the initial launch of the Farm Management System (FMS) in February 2013. FMS is the central database for planning, recording and benchmarking a wide range of farming inputs and outputs.
For the first two years FarmIQ used a pilot database which, even with limited data range, had demonstrated the value of capturing and measuring data, but this had already been outgrown by a number of participant farmers.
By the end of 2013 FMS will be a commercial release meaning it will be available to any farmer with the inclination and commitment to invest in accessing data for their farm decision-making purposes.
“The FMS is like the glue in the integrated chain, where farmers, processors and marketers will collectively plan, store and share data on a wide range of on and off farm inputs and outputs. It aims to ensure farmers move from working in parallel to working collectively.”
The development programme had been structured around fortnightly sprints where at the end of each a range of farmers, including the IQ farmers, commented on the functionality and proposed changes.
“Having direct farmer input into the system has helped keep us grounded in the realities on-farm. They’ve asked many questions and made observations we had not considered”, chief information officer Mark Johnstone said.
“The focus has been as much on usability as it has been on functionality. We are only too aware that if a farmer goes on to the FMS, gets frustrated and leaves, he or she will not come back in a hurry. This has been a key consideration in our development of the technology.”
Initially many farmers had not been sold on the advantages of a value chain approach, but after two years the benefits were becoming evident and work was ongoing to refine the processes around what farmers needed to put into the programme.