Real-time produce provenance: there’s an app for that

Aglive has developed a unique digital traceability platform to connect farm to food and unlock the value of food safety compliance for farmers.

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Paul Ryan, CEO of Aglive, explains how the agricultural management system allows red meat and other farm produce industry data to be accurately tracked from the farm right through to the end consumer, offering traceability benefits and re-affirming the connection between farm and food.

Aglive’s story began in 2011, when Paul Ryan and his co-founders, Greg Bryant, Chris Carr and Valerio Zanotto, set up Austracker GPS, a GPS asset tracking business designed to track vehicles.

When they took the business out to regional and rural Australia, they realised that the technology could have other applications.

“Talking to farmers and industry we realised there was a big need to use that technology on farms to track the ‘product’ [livestock] in its raw state,” says Ryan, who is now the CEO of Aglive.

Once they had the idea to create a digital tracking system for livestock, it was a matter of finding someone to build it. As Ryan is quite prepared to admit, he and his co-founders are ‘not technical people’. So they hired an expert from a top-tier software company with experience building industrial systems to the robustness required for the food industry.

At almost the same time, they had discussions with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), who had also identified the gaps in the industry. While consumers live in a digital world, some farmers are still in a paper world, which was making it harder to respond to changing export market requirements for red meat products.

Putting food safety first

Living in Australia, it’s easy to take for granted that our red meat is safe, but in export markets, especially in Asia, people are increasingly concerned about food safety and bio-security.

According to Ryan, “there’s a lot of angst and uncertainty, especially in countries whose food safety laws aren’t as strong as Australia’s. Consumers want to know their food is of high quality, safe and traceable. That data is all on the farm because we’re really good farmers, and very efficient and safety-conscious, but we haven’t been able to share that data.”

MLA was looking for partners to help develop a proof of concept to digitise the National Vendor Declaration. For Aglive, this meant creating a digitised National Vendor Declaration (eNVD) on a mobile app and building a database integrated to the National Livestock Identification System. The eNVD software needed to be compliant with SAFEMEAT’s eNVD business rules and data standards to validate ‘on farm’ food safety.

“We have been operating the Aglive eNVD app in the live production environment under a trial license agreement from MLA,” Ryan says. “The trial phase has now been completed successfully, and MLA’s recommended steps to proceed to the industry rollout phase have been supported by SAFEMEAT. We expect to have a full license to roll out the eNVD app industry wide within the next two months. In the meantime, MLA has given us permission to continue operating the eNVD software under a trial license allowing farmers to continue to use the app in the live production environment and transition to commercial terms once the full license is issued.”

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The digital industry standard

Ryan expects the eNVD to become the digital industry standard for the red meat industry but acknowledges there are challenges with taking the technology out to farmers.

“There are some issues around connectivity in the bush,” he says. “The NBN rollout isn’t 100 per cent finished so some farmers don’t have very good coverage. We’ve built the software with a ‘store and send’ function so that if they’re out of range they can still operate the mobile app and when they’re back in range the data syncs up to the cloud.”

Another challenge is that farming tends to be a conservative industry.

“There’s those at the top pushing for digital; then there’s those doing it the way their grandfathers did it,” Ryan says. “There is a new generation coming through now, who have been to agricultural colleges and used technology all through their education. They expect to use the same tools when they come back to the farm. And increasingly they are coming back to the farm because there’s money in farming now, with current prices and the outlook.”

Essentially, Aglive re-establishes the connection between farm and food, a connection that has been disrupted by the fragmentation of the supply chain and the lack of a system to bring it all together.

“It’s unlocking the potential of real-time provenance,” Ryan says. “That’s what we’ve solved, partly in collaboration with MLA via their co-funding of the eNVD component.”

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