Next Generation Food catches up with Paul Smits at Fancom in order to understand the current state of data management in the agricultural sector.
NGF. What challenges do agricultural producers face today?
PS. With spiralling feed costs, rising energy prices and consumers who increasingly demand that the production methods used by the agri business are sustainable and responsible, the profitability of the production chain is experiencing pressure. Greater insight into the production costs should lead to the fact that the higher investments in animal welfare remain profitable.
NGF. How can data management infrastructure support animal monitoring, and what benefits does it offer?
PS. The computerised processes in a house are a source of information about the environment the animals are raised in, their feed and water intake and, using Fancom’s biometric solutions, data relating to animal behaviour. By extracting this data using a data management infrastructure, combining it and presenting the end result in a clear structure, animal producers are offered an insight into the performance of their animals, the operational processes, the financial consequences and possibilities to make improvements and initiate actions aimed at optimising the results. This method also allows producers to show the chain how the animals are raised in order to safeguard their license to supply.
NGF. Ease of use is a concern. How do you ensure the technology meets individual requirements?
PS. Fancom has invested a huge amount of time in creating supremely user-friendly software for its animal husbandry systems. The control computers feature a large display and use clearly recognisable graphic symbols. The ‘what you see is what you get’ principle is a particularly important improvement. This means that the operation is geared to the user’s actual situation; elements of the system that are unused do not appear on the display. Automatic data collection is also a tool that simplifies how the system is used. No paper and data entry but data that is always sampled straight from the source, arranged in an orderly way at house, farm or central office level and clearly presented in easy to understand graphs and dashboard applications. By connecting with the customary key performance indicators used in business the user can directly relate the value of this information to his experiences.
NGF. Cost is also an important factor. Why does it pay off to invest in a computerised system?
PS. In order to be able to manage costs, insight into the cost drivers is essential. Investing in systems provides a real-time insight into the costs and opens the way for improvements. At Fancom we also offer the possibility to limit the key performance indicators, so that users can see at once if the production process is making a profit or whether action needs to be taken. In addition, a properly controlled climate and feeding process improves animal performance. By cutting costs on the one hand, and improving the technical results on the other, our computerised systems have a short earn back time.
NGF. What role will technological innovations play for the industry in the years to come? And which technologies will stand out?
PS. Firstly, the developments in sensor technology enable an increasing number of facets of animal behaviour to be monitored. This will place us in a better position to measure the actual comfort level of animals and to maintain these levels using biometric control algorythms. Secondly, there are developments in ICT that allow data sharing in the chain. In the future we should be able to use business intelligence solutions to directly convert this data into actions and the structures will be a part of the existing enterprise software solutions. Fancom is therefore investing in this technology, biometric sensor applications and business intelligence as we are convinced that the industry will require these methods for healthy profits and in order to continue complying with the demands of today’s critical consumers.