ABN looks to make farm data capture ‘relevant and effective’

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock
ABN, a UK manufacturer of pig and poultry compound feed, has recently rolled out a technical suite designed to improve efficiencies across poultry businesses.

It Total Farm Performance is a platform aimed at small, independent farms as well as bigger operations; it includes inFarm: an on-farm technical service to optimize bird performance, inFocus: a data capture service designed to guide daily actions and inDepth: a customized data analysis service.

FeedNavigator spoke to Tom Glen, commercial lead, Total Farm Performance, ABN, last week, and he fleshed out the new service for us, and what prompted it. 

“It evolved over time really. I guess alongside meeting the needs and challenges of our customers in the wider UK poultry industry, we found we were being asked a lot about performance and industry trends. We realized that we were in quite a unique position to offer on-farm advice but also to help farm managers to apply best practice from what we had learned from across the industry." 

Making it relevant 

ABN, he said, also saw an opportunity to help businesses that it worked with to improve their use of data and also to make data and technology more relevant in the sector. “It is quite easy to go out and install kit and do things that perhaps aren’t delivering value. Because we have that on-farm experience, we are able to make data and technology more effective so that businesses are actually getting good use out if it. If our customers are getting better performance and efficiency it helps us grow as a business as well; we want to work with businesses that are successful.” 

First off the blocks was the inFarm technical service, which was primarily aimed at helping independent broiler growers to improve their performance, and then as technology developed, it allowed ABN to monitor on-farm performance in ‘real’ time, he said.

“We combined such technology with the specialist knowledge that we already had in terms of on-farm production to develop the inFocus platform, an intelligent system that records the ‘live’ farm data and also analyses it immediately and provides instant actions and insights to the farm manager or area manager or owner or any other stakeholder that has access.

“As we were developing those two products, we developed inDepth alongside, because data analysis is always essential for making those services as relevant and effective as possible for different customers. So we learnt a lot more about advanced analytics, data visualization and statistics, and we found ourselves in a position where we were able to offer that as a data consultancy service, to help customers make evidence base decisions and build that into their strategic and day-to-day decision making.”

ABN can tailor that inDepth service to whatever a customer wants, he said.

“The benefits of the inDepth analytical service is that we can take data from anywhere in the supply chain. It could be on-farm data, we could be looking at it on a single farm level, previous flock performance and production data and trends over time, or we could be looking at an integrated operation and analyzing what its milligram per kilo use of antibiotics might be or reasons behind the rejects in the factory or looking at trends and analyzing patterns.”

Feed efficiency

Each element can help with feed efficiency; inFarm and inFocus do so at the farm level by making farmers react more quickly to issues that arise, to enable a quicker and more effective intervention, whether that is treating birds with probiotics or addressing a challenge in a shed, he said. “The shorter the time between the issues happening and their being resolved, the better for the birds and it means there is a lower impact on feed conversion.”  ​ 

InDepth can help integrated or larger operations step back and look at data from the supply chain, looking at how parent flock or egg age, for instance, may drive performance or to determine what factors are behind rejects at the factory, he continued. 

If you can see what the optimum turnaround time is, for example, you can start to make more strategic decisions across the wider business and that will help overall feed efficiency.”​ 

Deviation from norms 

The way the on-farm data capture and insights service, inFocus, works is through a smart phone app but it through a browser so a farm manager can log in though a smart phone, tablet or desk top and access the data instantly, he said. 

In terms of determining deviation from norms, Glen said ABN consulted with farm advisors and tried to apply their logic to the inFocus app for instances such as a drop in temperature and what their thought processes would be. 

Built into the app is a way of discerning whether the deviation is significant, and, if it is, what action needs to be taken, he explained. “If it detects a slight drop off in water intake, for example, and also detects that the temperatures are all okay and that there hasn’t been any other kind of disturbance in the shed such as vaccination, it might suggest an insight such as check the drinker heights are appropriate for the size of the birds. This is not intended as a replacement for good stockmanship or in any way telling producers what to do, it is more around helping them to focus their time where it is most needed.”

Costs

The service is designed to be quite flexible, and it can be tailored to whatever a particular customer wants.  A farm manger can opt for one, or two or three of the services, either independently or in combination, said Glen. 

“We sit down with each customer and see what their requirements and expectations are and then we come up with a way of costing that is transparent but also that we feel will deliver value for money regardless of the size of the operation. So it is scalable from that point of view. It is a really bespoke service.” 

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