FarmIQ

FarmIQ aimed to create a demand-driven, integrated value chain for red meat that could grow the sector by 50 percent by 2025. It had projects throughout the value chain, from on-farm production to processing and analysis of market requirements.

Key facts

Programme start: November 2010 
Programme end: June 2017 
PGP funding: $59 million 
Industry funding: $65 million
Crown funding paid out: $59.3 million 
Estimated potential economic benefits to NZ: $593 million per year by 2025
Commercial partners: Silver Fern Farms, Landcorp Farming Ltd, Tru-Test Ltd

Video - The FarmIQ story (parts 1 to 3) (14.29)

[Happy music plays. A shot of a lush, green farm landscape is shown]

Collier Isaacs – CEO FarmIQ PGP: The project was put together by Silver Fern Farms and Landcorp and some other parties, and MPI, obviously the Government and a PGP programme, looking at the value chain from consumers right the way back to farm.

[Infographic showing how the FarmIQ system works]

Collier: There was 5 work streams put together - the first of those work streams was dealing with a consumer: What could we do with a consumer that would actually result in a premium?

[Processing plant for meat is shown]

Collier: The next work stream was back in processing, so if we knew what the consumers were after, what could we do in processing?

[Slides being prepared in a laboratory]

Collier: Behind that, there's another work stream in genetics, and so if we understood what the consumer was after, then perhaps we could select different animals.

[Animals grazing on a farm]

Collier: Behind that was another project looking at what could we do at a farm level to make sure we meet those consumer requirements, and also improve productivity on-farm. Then underneath all of that whole project was software - so we could join all that information together, drive productivity and get a better outcome for consumers.

[Software being used with interactive maps of farm areas being viewed and modified]

Collier: The biggest success of the marketplaces was a whole new product range that didn't exist before.

[packages of Silver Fern Farms meat shown]

Collier: In the processing side of things, probably the biggest success was, you know, the ability to trace products through a processing plant.

[meat being processed with electronic identification tags]

Collier: But in the sheep genetic side of things, we can now select for eating quality, which you couldn't do previously. And the same SNP chip we developed for eating quality can also be used for the rest of the sheep industry for all the productivity traits.

Getting back onto the farm side of things, the biggest success there probably was really I guess software - you know, getting people to monitor, measure, manage information, and linking that all the way through the chain. Beyond the programme's wrap-up, it's really focused on how these things are commercialised. Silver Fern Farms are continuing rolling out new products around the world, and basically it's a question of scaling up, and it's scaling up quite significantly.

[Shots show packaged and branded meat products – one of the outcomes of the programme]

Collier: The whole genetics program has really been rolled out through beef and in genetics, so having gone from an R&D program, it's now going to be commercialised really in an industry good basis across the sector. The software business is now a standalone business commercial running on its own steam. BeefEQ I think was the best example of value chain theory really coming into practice, starting with the consumers the first thing we learnt was something like 20% of consumers actually didn't think they were getting a great eating experience out of beef. So there was a market opportunity.

[meat being monitored in a processing faciity]

Collier: Back in processing we found ways of actually using measurement systems to actually work out the eating quality of the beef.

[software being use by farmers showing graphs of carcass grade]

Collier: Genetics was pretty well covered and then back on farm we found that actually farmers could have a major effect on the eating quality of those animals for the consumer. And then we put it all together in software so that the farmer can see what the eating scores are, they can understand what they're doing on-farm to actually change those eating scores, and on that basis actually earn themselves a premium, so 40 cents a kilogram for improved quality beef, and overall that's actually added up last year to $3 million worth of premiums back to farmers. So that really is best example saying here's an opportunity with consumers, here's how we measure, track, and trace, here's how we do things on farm to line it all up, and create value for everybody.

[Part 1 ends. Part 2 begins.]

Grant Howie – FarmIQ Product Development Lead: The aim of the marketing stream, right from day one, was to determine how much more value we could add to New Zealand red meat - lamb, beef, and venison. Part of our thinking right from day one was about how we get the product from farmers in a state that consumers would pay more for, hence the start of the plate-to-pasture strategy so it was taking consumer thinking all the way back to the farm. So we undertook a very big program BeefEQ - we had over 96,000 consumer tests, and these were blind taste tests, and we married that up with carcass attributes that went all the way back to the farm and were able to build a pretty sophisticated science-based grading system where we can now guarantee the tastiness, the tenderness, and the juiciness of our beef.

[Shots show packaged, branded beef products that were produced through the programme.]

Grant: We've taken the BeefEQ grading and launched a number of new products – beef retail packs so they're attractively packaged, ready-to-cook products for consumers out of a supermarket, but also reserved beef that we sell to chefs in the top restaurants around the world. Throughout the 7 years of the FarmIQ PGP, we undertook a number of extensive research studies on lamb eating quality, and the good news is to New Zealand farmers that New Zealand lamb is a very, very high-quality product already.

[packaged, Silver Fern Farms premium lamb products with attractive images of the cooked product]

One of the key ways that we discovered to add value was our retail packaging. We found that when you make lamb look this good and this attractive and compelling, consumers absolutely will pay more for it, and the consumer taste panels showed that they would rate lamb in this packaging much higher than lamb in very plain packaging. So that's an example of how to create value. The more important part in my view is how much of that value do we capture and bring back here to New Zealand. We've done a lot of research on individual markets around the world and we did a big study right at the start to identify attractive premium markets. We've narrowed that down to 4 key markets, New Zealand being one of them where we do a lot of test marketing. Also Germany, China, and the USA. In the next five years I think we'll see a lot of growth out of those big 3 global markets.

[Shots show transport trucks and livestock]

Grant Pearson – FarmIQ Processing Feedback Lead: The processing workstream for FarmIQ really had a vision of what we call process optimisation, and that meant that we wanted to be able to measure the yield and the quality of every animal that came into the plant so that we could feed that data back to farmers and we could also use it to do smarter things within processing, and match the resulting cuts to the customer.

[meat being processed with data shown on processing plant screen then in farmer software]

Grant: Our process optimisation vision really was built around individual animals and individual carcasses, so we had to track them right through to the boning room and beyond so that all information we could collect could go back to farmers against that animal, and he or she could use that information to make better decisions on-farm. Consistency is one of the big untapped areas of value in the meat industry. BeefEQ is built on this whole concept of consistency where you measure key elements around eating quality of carcasses.

The research work we did on improving yield and quality was really part of a long-term process, so we work with a lot of the universities in New Zealand and overseas, and AgResearch and other groups like, that to understand a lot more about yield, a lot more about quality, and to start also working with customers. Well there are quite a few positive outcomes that came from the improvement work that we did: developing understanding, producing national codes for things like chilled lamb production in New Zealand, developing convincing arguments for UK supermarkets to accept meat that had been spray-chilled for example to improve yield – a lot of little projects like that.

[cattle being processed and meat tested]

We pretty much nailed the traceability work to be able to track animals and carcasses through our plants. We're well down the track on yield measurement. We haven't got so far on quality measurement, but other people are picking that work up so when all those building blocks are in place then their vision will start to become more of a reality.

[sheep being tagged]

EID [Electronic ID] is important for the farmer to help the farmer make better decisions, but it's also important when processing, because the automated processing machinery we use now for breaking carcasses down and further processing primals needs that information coming through, and that has to be able to do it at full speed by reading the RFID tag, and the skids, and trolleys, and slides, that bring those carcasses through. So it's absolutely critical, it's the backbone of the whole process. If we can optimise what we do with every carcass then we can get more value out of their carcass, rather than try and treat them as batches which has been the traditional method. For the farmer he gets more money, it's as simple as that. If the processor can target specific markets and get premiums in those markets then they can pay the farmer more.

[Part 2 ends. Part 3 begins.]

Darren Pegram – CEO FarmIQ Systems Ltd: The FarmIQ system was spun out of the PGP programme at the beginning of 2016. The PGP aimed to increase the value of the red meat value chain. The FarmIQ software was a key part of that in terms of joining consumers up with what's actually happening on-farm, and increasing the value of farmers produce as well as the productivity on the farm. It brings together information about the land, the feed on the farm, the animals, and the people.

[farmers shown using the software in the field on a mobile device and at home]

Darren: It's actually the start of a farming ecosystem, so it enables the farmer to engage with their farm consultant, or their meat company, or even their farm suppliers, in a more useful, more efficient way. And we've seen, for example, cost savings in terms of how people are able to do environmental plans - things that probably weren't anticipated at the start of the PGP, but which are now a key part of what FarmIQ does.

[trees being planted beside a waterway on a farm]

Darren: FarmIQ is available on computers, but these days farmers do pretty much everything on their app, and so the advent of smartphones has really required us to put more and more functionality on the app. We set out to manage land and animals, but increasingly it's been really important for farmers to manage health and safety, and timesheets, and all that sort of thing.

And joining that up with what's actually happening on-farm has been quite useful for them. FarmIQ software was a very significant investment at a time when this was not the done thing to be doing, and the the vision that the PGP had means that we actually have something perfectly timed to take advantage of what our customers are actually needing.

[farmers using the app on-farm]

It's a building block for the future. It came out of red meat, but it's going to be used more broadly in dairy and other spheres as an open neutral platform where information can be exchanged between farmers and the people that supply them with genetics, or fertiliser, or other products - and actually, the people who do the traceability, and consumers who want to know where their food comes from. And that platform, was really going to set New Zealand in a really, really strong position for the future.

[view of outside of Centre for Reproduction and Genomics]

John McEwan – FarmIQ Genetics Lead: Meat quality is a very valuable trait. It's already being rewarded in the New Zealand industry in beef. We wanted to get better breeding values for meat quality in cheap, and so we needed to develop a high density SNP chip. It was developed by our group in association with International Sheep Genomics Consortium, which included people from Australia, the United States, and the UK.

[woman using laboratory equipment]

John: The key traits that can be measured are tenderness, the pH of the meat, and the intramuscular fat content. But colour was also important.

[meat being measured for colour against a test strip in a processing plant]

John: Farmers can use this by buying better rams from their ram breeders. 

[close-up of different SNP chips]

John: The ram breeders can use the technology by using SNP chips to estimate the breeding values for the meat quality traits. This is the high-density chip, and we can do 12 samples on it, and it can check out 600,000 variants. This is the low-density chip that the breeders now use. It's got about 8,000 variants, and we can put 96 samples on that.

Sheep was a focus because it's a very valuable industry in New Zealand. The technology has become much more accessible. The HD chips were originally going to cost somewhere between $800 and $1,000 per animal each. We managed to develop it for $200-$300 dollars, but the reduced chip that's being used in the industry now are available to the breeder at about $25 a sample. The key technology that we developed, that spin-off technology, was genotyping by sequencing, instead of testing for specific variants.

It's a low cost way of sequencing animals. Almost all the stud tier and in the New Zealand deer industry uses this test as of 2016. We are extending the technology out into the various aquaculture industries, and we are hoping as part of other projects that it will be taken up by the ryegrass and white clover seed industries. The FarmIQ PGP project, we were a relatively small portion of it, but the benefits both direct and indirect, will have major impacts going forward for the next 20 or 30 years.

[End of transcript]


Programme outcomes

  • The red meat industry now has one of the most integrated farm management systems available through the FarmIQ software, which supports around 11% of the industry.
  • Over $3.5 million in premiums paid back to farmers supplying Silver Fern farms through the BeefEQ system for the value-add range developed by the programme.
  • Genetic gains will increase productivity across the national sheep flock, maintain high eating quality, and help greenhouse gas research.
  • Programme partner Silver Fern Farms had premium value-add sales of $68 million for the 12 months ending June 2017 following market development work through the programme.  
  • FarmIQ software now supports more than 5.9 million stock units being run on 1.4 million hectares. 'IQ farms' have increased their productivity and profitability. 
  • FarmIQ software development capability helped run a pilot for the Sri Lankan Government.  

Outcome Logic Model

Final programme reports


Background to the programme

The FarmIQ programme was proposed because of concerns:

  • the supply chain was production-driven and inefficient
  • farmers were removed from customers
  • the supply chain had little ability to respond to changing consumer demands.

The FarmIQ solution

FarmIQ looked for solutions to those problems.

For the first time, information from throughout the value chain would be captured through the development of a farm management system.

This would enable farmer suppliers to:

  • understand what customers want
  • use new research-based knowledge to tailor their farming systems and supply to meet these requirements.

Ultimately, FarmIQ aimed to deliver sustainable benefits to all sector participants: farmers, processors and marketers.

Audit and progress reports

Find out more

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