The organization continues to develop innovative management tools to help producers with better data
AgSights’ current suite of technological tools reflects the 30-year-old vision of its former namesake, BIO.
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“The future is new technologies. It is considering all the different ways more data can be collected,” said Betty Jo Almond, AgSights general manager, during the organization’s annual meeting last month.
“It is sensors; it is camera technology… (and incorporating) infrared camera technology into the data capture tools we support.”
Almond said AgSights’ business plan focuses on business, research and development and governance delivered through its bioTrack/Plus, bioLinks and genetic evaluations, including bull and heifer evaluation services.
Why it matters: AgSights has evolved to be an internationally recognized livestock data management provider.
“Our decision to move to a platform for on-farm management was one that gives us a robust platform, scalable and ready to start commercializing,” said Almond. “You’re going to hear a new name for our software called bioTrack Plus.”
BioTrack Plus is available on the Microsoft platform, featuring Excel-enabled data-driven output with leading key performance indicators.
“We are offering bioTrack Plus on a platform that gives a lot of flexibility. It gives real-time data-based decision tools,” she said. “And it flows very nicely into our other solutions.”
AgSights continues to focus on a greater than one approach, with collaborative projects like those with the Canadian Beef Improvement Network and National Integrated Genetic Services for sheep and goats.
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and it resonates whether you’re a biotech client trying to do record keeping on your operation, or you’re a meat processing facility trying to find more efficiencies in processing animals, or you’re seeking out genetic evaluation services trying to find the strengths of your animals so you can leverage that in the year to come,” Almond said.
An original Beef Improvement Ontario (BIO) member, Dr. Jim Watson said Bio began because the Ontario government downloaded provincially run performance programs to the industries involved.
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“The beef industry was given the task of taking over and running the Beef Herd Improvement Program, including bull test programs,” he said in a statement to AgSights. “There were financial concerns, but big hopes for better things to come.”
Watson said they were optimistic a new organization would create a dynamic new component of beef production in Ontario, with complete traceability of beef sold, data-driven efficient production through herd improvement programs and use of herd sires with proven fed efficiency, growth traits and carcass characteristics.
“There would be major uptakes in information systems and increases in genetics for the whole beef industry in Ontario under industry management,” Watson wrote.
In 2017 BIO rebranded as AgSights, now an internationally recognized livestock data management provider that continues to grow its partnerships and tools for producers to track, monitor and improve livestock management and marketing.
“(We’re) always going to develop and add new features because the industry keeps changing. The needs of the producers keep changing and our solutions must stay in check with today’s needs,” Almond said.
Since 1993 through Bio/AgSights, more than 2.64 million Canadian cattle have been subject to genetic services, with 1.36 million in global value-added cattle and 20,000 cattle with carcass data, Almond said.
“Over the past 15 years, we have accessed funding just under $7 million, and that’s been leveraging our Toronto Stockyards fund to do more research and development to make sure that the solutions and services we offer stay current, innovative and leading edge.”
AgSights, Meat and Poultry Ontario, Beef Farmers of Ontario and Ontario Sheep are building a business plan for funding applications to develop Processor Links, a way to identify processing capacity for Canadian producers, ranchers and at meat processing facilities.
“If you think of Expedia for booking a hotel, it’s that kind of process for booking processing space,” Almond explained. “It’s not only at the initial processing capacity and space to harvest animals, but then it’s that next service where you need further processing to be able to sell your meat products.”
AgSights is working with Dr. Yuri Montanholi, Lakeland College livestock research scientist, and OneCup AI animal tracking on incorporating a self-weighing system and camera technology that help identify animals for the school’s bison.
“It’s focused on identifying, weighing animals and collecting data where it’s not that easy to handle the animals you’re weighing,” she said. “So, bison is a great group to start with, but I think the longer term can also have a very big impact on beef operations.”
Mike McMorris, BIO/AgSights former general manager, said AgSights has always been a leading organization that offers solutions people may not know they need.
“If you know Jim Watson, the key wording there was BIO was going to do this. What he’s really saying is the vision hasn’t been reached yet,” said McMorris, now CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation.
“So, I think there’s still a lot of work to do. Data collection and genetic evaluations is a really tough game.”
McMorris said mobile phones and accessible internet were in their infancy in 1993 when BIO formed, and genetics and antimicrobial resistance weren’t on the horizon for livestock.
Now mobile phones are small computers that give producers portable real-time data and genetic collection tools that streamline and improve livestock efficiency traits and profitability.
“I’ve always thought the future for BIO/AgSights is bright, and I continue to think that,” he said. “It’s really important to know where you came from and … don’t get hung up on it but focus on the future.”
Almond said collaboration with a broad spectrum of organizations is key to the future.
“Working with those other organizations and figuring it out together is how we get to the next 30 years.”