March 14, 2019

Farming technology brings blockchain and machine vision to fresh pastures

By Priya Kantaria

A UK startup called Breedr is changing the farming market, using smart contracts, blockchain and machine vision to improve breeding and slaughter decision-making.

Farmers still rely on assessments by eye to decide when an animal is ready for slaughter and perhaps because of this, nearly half of UK livestock does not meet the specifications for prime beef, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Ian Wheal, co-founder and chief executive officer at Breedr, said: “The beef, sheep and pig producers we are working with have a wealth of data about their animals and see our app as a way to directly add value.

“Today they might choose to see which animals are closest to the specification requested by their customers, but as more information is included they will be able to benchmark against other farmers in their group.”

Bringing technology into the farmyard

Breedr says it will digitise the entire livestock process, “from sire to carcass performance” and will give farmers insights to deliver their products.

This includes insight into which sires result in more profitable offspring and predictions of the date for peak performance of animals for hitting meat specifications.

A farmer’s guesswork can be improved on with the data-driven tools, which should improve profitability, but Breedr also claims it will reduce environmental impacts and waste caused by overfeeding and bad breeding decisions.

Improved accuracy in breeding and rearing means farmers can reduce the optimum cull time for cattle to 15 months, where currently the average age of cattle for slaughter is 29 months, reducing methane production by 14 months of emissions.

The benefits of technology for farmers

The company’s early results show benchmarking animals within the Breedr platform, based on better siring and genetic decision-making, produces an average benefit of £150 for each beef-finished animal.

It also reduces feed costs and creates 50% savings on transaction fees.

Gary Spence, a beef farmer from Northern Ireland who has been using Breedr on trial, estimates improved profit margins by up to £120 per cow.

He said: “By using Breedr on our farm we’ve been able to identify the best and the worst performers.

“We’ve been able to use the data generated to see very easily the best farms to buy animals from, the best sires to use, [letting us] then eliminate from the herd animals that are losing our farm money.

“The app has also saved us a considerable amount of time, reducing paperwork by integrating with our regulatory systems.”

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