Apply I.T. - or be “leapfrogged“

UK - Developed pig industries risk being ‘technologically leapfrogged’ by new players in developing nations unless they start applying information technology (IT), warns a research fellow.
calendar icon 10 November 2006
clock icon 3 minute read

“The writing is on the wall - mature pig production markets must get on with applying IT to every aspect of their businesses if they are to survive global competition,” says Hugh Crabtree.

Presenting the 5th Annual Fellowship in Pig Research* - managed and sponsored by the Royal Agricultural College and NATWEST Agriculture respectively - at Cirencester on 7th November, he pointed out that production of pork, the most popular meat globally, will continue to increase resulting in a doubling of the world’s pig breeding herd by 2015.

But the location for most of this increase would shift from developed western markets to new centres in, Brazil, Russia, the Pacific Rim, India and China.

“Agriculture will change from simply growing stuff to manufacturing biologically-based, specific-attribute raw materials,” he predicted. It will be produced to a defined specification. “IT will be a necessary part of this chain and we in the developed markets must use the advantage of our superior knowledge and experience for high-quality, sustainable and traceable production.”

Just using IT to get environmental control, feeding and water delivery systems to work as intended could boost productivity on the farm by 30 per cent, Mr Crabtree pointed out. This included an industry-wide reduction of 5-10 days in the time taken to finish pigs, 50 per cent less carcase variation, a 30 per cent cut in fossil fuel consumption and a 75 per cent reduction in water wastage.

Surveys had shown that 75 per cent of farmers had computers and 62 per cent made some use of them for business management. “Personal experience and contacts suggest that perhaps the figure for real commercial use of computers and the internet in agriculture is only 25-30 per cent,” said Mr Crabtree. “Farmers are outdoor people, not ‘screenies’ who spend their days at a desk”.

However, there was a consensus that IT would have a value in pig production but the willingness or confidence to spend money to find out was lacking. “This is something of an agricultural trait identified widely by those of us in the IT game.

“But in the developing markets the attitude is different and a much more numbers-based approach is taken. Established markets had better beware if they are to compete longer term,” warned Mr Crabtree.

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