Agri-EPI network explores data collection for livestock farming


Agri-EPI Centre hosted a member community online special interest group entitled Data Collection from Livestock, that bought farmers, researchers and tech developers from across the agri-tech sector together online to discuss the power of data in cattle production and livestock farming.

The event was chaired by Ross Robertson, Head of Agri-tech (Mixed) at Agri-EPI Centre, and discussions were led by Carol-Anne Duthie, Head of Beef and Sheep Research at SRUC, Andrew Gardner, Technical Director at Galebreaker, Jose Chitty, COO at SmartBell and Sion Williams, Farm Manager at Bowhill Farming.

Carol-Anne began the conversation by speaking about data-driven innovations and SRUC’s role in supporting development. She highlighted some of the technologies they have been working with at SRUC’s Sheep and Beef Research Centre including imaging systems, 3D imaging systems, GPS systems and more. She raised the question, what is the additional value we can generate from different kinds of data?

Carol-Anne said:

“There are lots of pressures around efficiency, net zero, and antimicrobial resistance, for example, so we really do need technologies to support these challenges. The important thing is that these technologies are underpinned by robust evidence and that they are accessible and user friendly.”

Andrew then discussed the development of technology through to commercialisation. Some of the hurdles of tech commercialisation he highlighted included in-house learnings, engaging sales channels, forming new functions that will be embraced by technology, the costs of data subscriptions, and understanding who owns the data. A key takeaway was that the commercial offering of data is a service and not a product. To maximise it you need to show to the farmer the value proposition that that service is giving them.

Andrew said:

“By overlaying data, you can see exactly what’s going on on your own farm and have a true understanding of the losses involved, again giving better reasons to invest in correcting them. The sharing of data and sharing of knowledge is what really supports future decisions on farm.”

Jose Chitty was next and discussed how Agri-EPI member SmartBell can help cattle producers make decisions. SmartBell is an animal health monitoring and management system that provides unique data insights, focused on detecting health issues in calves. The tech makes it easy to gather data and present insights directly on a phone and allows farmers to spot problems faster and more easily, as well as create benchmarks for tracking changes and improvements on farm. This kind of data gathering can help to improve profitability, improve animal health, justify spending, and access funding.

Lastly, Sion Williams, one of Agri-EPI’s innovation farmers, followed up with a discussion about how Bowhill Farm has been utilising tech on farm to trial how it can improve their production. He highlighted the three most important focus areas for improving the productivity of a farm, including animal genetics, grassland genetics, and soil.

Sion summarised:

“Using technology in livestock makes life a lot easier.”

Discussion followed, with an audience question and answer session diving further into tech adoption on farm, data usage and interpretation and more. It became clear that there are a huge number of opportunities available around livestock data collection. Agri-EPI’s focus is finding the right opportunities and exploring them with their network and farmers to make sure the sector continues to deliver successful solutions for sustainable and innovative food production.


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