Thursday, 03 October 2019 10:55

LIC ascending into cloud for technology

Written by  Pam Tipa
LIC chief executive Wayne McNee. LIC chief executive Wayne McNee.

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is undergoing a digital transformation in the cloud, says chief executive Wayne McNee.

 It is developing products and services for customers on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform. 

The tailored cloud strategy will markedly shorten the time it takes to analyse the range of data from different sources across a farm. It will provide real time insights via its Minda application to help guide farmers’ decision making. 

LIC’s breeding programme, including genomic analysis work, will be accelerated as a result.

McNee told Dairy News it is a big change. 

The genomics team is trialling the technology, seeing huge gains on its traditional methods of processing genomics products. That will go into production within the next six months.

“That really accelerates the way we can deliver improved breeding programmes,” said McNee.

All new products for Minda are now being built on the AWS platform. 

The main difference LIC’s 11,000 New Zealand farmer customers will see is the speed at which products are developed and put out to the market. Another big change will be the insights through Minda into what decisions they should be making. 

“A farmer now goes on their PC and scrolls through a big report with all the information about each individual cow. And then they will work out what they should do as a result,” McNee said.

“The system will now start to push insights to them: ‘These are the decisions you should think about making today -- the things you could be doing with these animals’. 

“It is still the farmer’s decision as to what they should do, what animals they should be drafting and what animals they should be treating.

“But it will provide them better information more quickly and real time on the farm so they don’t have to go home and pull up the report on a PC, print it out and muck around.

“They can do it on the phone, they can do it in the dairy shed in real time.” 

The first of those insights is now in production, he says. 

“That is information about upcoming herd testing, telling farmers how ready their herd is for herd testing, what changes they need to make to be ready when a herd test comes up so. That is in production now and there will be more and more releases of information into the future.”

McNee says the move was made to accelerate the rate of development, and upgrade and update technology. 

“Customer farmers want increasingly to access product in real time, they want to see things on their phone. They are getting used to that in other parts of their life so they expect it from us as well. 

“The other part is speeding up genomics. We are looking at how we can increase the rate of genetic gain... of dairy cows, and reduce the impact on the environment of things like nitrates and methane. 

“So our having the tools and the computer power that comes with the platform gives us more chance to speed up those processes. 

“We have huge research projects looking into the environmental impact of dairy but working together with the platform helps us speed that up.”

McNee says they are working with farmers on the development of product in two ways. 

“Our team goes out and meets with farmers and talks through what sort of innovation they want from us. LIC also runs a Facebook page with 500 farmers on it where they provide their views on what the industry needs and what they want to see next. So we get real time feedback on our products.

“If we put something out and they don’t like it we know about it quickly and we fix it quickly. But that doesn’t happen often because they are telling us in the first place what they want. 

“We are using both the farm network one-on-one, and Facebook, to find out what they want to see from us next.”

Farmers have a range of capability in technology. The spectrum runs from those who live on digital data to those who still want to write things down and enter them later.

Innovation to provide value

The AWS platform is highly scaleable so has almost infinite capacity to perform tasks previously almost impossible, says Tim Dacombe-Bird, AWS NZ country manager.

“LIC can scale up very quickly, run computational demand models and then scale down very quickly. It is also highly resilient and a very secure technology platform.”

Dacombe-Bird says LIC’s innovation will provide considerable value for its customers.

“The products and services they are using are part of the AWS platform which has been around for 13 years. We continuously innovate and iterate on our platform to provide new capabilities to customers like LIC, and we do that at incredible pace. In 2018 alone we released 1957 new services, features or updates which we can put into the hands of organisations like LIC, to provide great capability and new services.”

AWS is focussed on NZ agriculture and was a major sponsor of Fieldays this year. 

“At AWS, we recognise the importance of the agritech sector to NZ, and LIC is a critical component in the farming ecosystem. 

“Our broad technology platform is enabling LIC and other agritech organisations to focus on making a difference for their customers. 

“AWS’ data and analytics services are enabling LIC to activate its large data sets to drive productivity, profitability and sustainability for farmers.”

Whatever industry you are in, technology is in your future, he says.

 “So it is important we take a proactive stance on educating the wider community.”

AWS is working hard in New Zealand to build partnerships with educators including agricultural organisations. It is also working with the BNZ Cloud Guild and the Auckland ICT Graduate School and was a strategic partner of Techweek 2019, hosting 20 events across NZ.

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