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Top Industry Award for Northern Ireland Innovation

by 5m Editor
2 February 2010, at 7:38am

UK - The innovative software solution for the Northern Ireland pig industry, the Pig Grading Information System or PiGIS™, was recently given recognition when it received an award in the Food Chain Marketing category of the UK Food & Farming Awards.


Mark Hawe (CAFRE) and Erica Chisholm (AFBI) accept the award for their innovative software program, PiGIS, at the UK Food & Farming Industry Awards in the House of Commons. The award was presented by James Paice MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs and sponsor Kevin Organ, General Manager of The Farmright Group Limited. [PHOTO: AFBI]

PiGIS™ is a unique on-line benchmarking tool that has been jointly developed between the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland. The software system benefits both pig producers and processors by analysing pig carcass data and providing rapid feedback on the quality and grade of the carcase. It allows benchmarking comparisons to be made with others in the pig industry on a “real-time” basis.

Mark Hawe, Pig Technologist at CAFRE, who works closely with pig producers, stated “PiGIS™ has been widely used by both producers and processors to help them make informed business management decisions. It also allows producers to quantify their position in the quality league table through the benchmarking facility. The system has been helping to make the NI pig industry more competitive. The UK Food and Farming Industry Award is the first time that the benefits of PiGIS™ have been publicly recognised at this level,” he added.

Cookstown pig producer Andrew McCrea, who uses the system, spoke about the benefits to his business. “The rapid feedback and comparisons of carcass data helps us make accurate decisions about the optimum weight to market our pigs. We have seen real improvements in our pig carcass quality this year”.

“This definitely has helped improve returns to my business. It is reassuring to see that our pigs have graded well compared to other NI producers. Pig processors also benefit because we now produce pigs that are more uniform and better meet their requirements in terms of weight and probe” he added.

The UK Food & Farming Industry Awards are designed to celebrate some of the most successful and innovative farm and rural businesses. The award winners are competitive, market-driven, successful innovators and who give inspiration to other farm and rural businesses. James Paice MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, presented the award to Erica Chisholm (AFBI) and Mark Hawe (CAFRE) in the House of Commons.

Erica Chisholm, Statistician and Head of IT Development at AFBI explained, “The success of PiGIS™ in Northern Ireland clearly indicates the potential to market the program to other pig industries in Europe and beyond, in addition to extending to other species. Indeed, we are already working on the development of a similar product for the beef industry. We hope that this example of innovation and best practise in farming and software research will now be taken up in a global market.”

The award is the second accolade for the PiGIS™ development team. Mark Hawe (CAFRE), Erica Chisholm (AFBI) and Mark Browne (AFBI), also recently won the "Digital Media & Software" category in last year's NI Science Park £25k Awards “search for the next big thing”. This latest award, in the Food Chain Marketing category of the UK Food & Farming Awards, gives national recognition of the benefits of PiGIS™ to the pig industry.

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