Farmers are using mobile technology, really? I can already hear the rumbles of urban myth purveyors, in disbelief at the notion that a farmer would have or even know how to use a smartphone or a computer. Well, we can now safely bust this myth, as proven by the success of Herdwatch in just 6 months, and our direct experience with Farmers all over the country, and abroad!
So, what is Herdwatch?
Herdwatch is a cloud-based “Mobile CRM for Cows”, a new innovative mobile & desktop solution which enables cattle farmers to manage their herd more efficiently, anytime, anywhere. It was launched in Feb 2014 and has since received very positive feedback from the agri-tech sector and has attracted over 300 paid users (on an annual subscription plan of 99 Eur inc VAT per year). It represents our vision for the future of global agriculture: a disruptive, innovative mobile technology bringing traditional farming into the “Mobile Revolution”.
Despite the popular urban perception, farmers are a very computer-literate and technically strong group of people. It makes perfect sense for them to adopt mobile technology to improve their lifestyle and make them more efficient. Herdwatch can literally save farmers hours of paperwork every week by allowing them to record farm and animal events directly via a smartphone app, tablet app or PC software package, anytime, anywhere.
Herdwatch is the first cross-platform mobile solution fully approved by the Department of Agriculture, and it gives farmers both mobility and peace of mind when it comes to recording legally required information, such as calf births or animal remedies. It can work offline, but being cloud-based means the farmer’s data can be easily managed from multiple devices.
How did Herdwatch come about?
FRS Network (Farm Relief Services), which owns Herdwatch, is a nationwide farmer-owned co-operative, and has been providing people and services primarily to the farming community for over 35 years.
3 years ago, in my role as IT Manager for FRS, I discovered a statistic that shocked me: 93% of farmers did not use any form of computerised herd management system. We researched the reasons why this was the case, and spent the next 2 years building the solution farmers wanted, at a price point that made sense to them. We made it truly mobile, easy to use, and value for money, the 3 things farmers told us they were looking for.
Functionality and mobility are key, so we built a solid cloud-based infrastructure, an iPhone/iPad App, Android App and a software package which can also run on Windows and Apple laptops and computers. These have been fully approved by the Department of Agriculture, so farmers can be confident that Herdwatch has reached the standard they expect and require. We are especially delighted to have been “Approved by Farmers”, with over 300 signed up in just 6 months, and excellent feedback being constantly received by the team.
Is mobility the future of Farming?
Farmers have been “mobile” forever, but the difference is that today farmers have access to mobile technology which has the potential to bring the office into the fields! It’s hard to believe that less than 10 years ago, there was no such thing as a smartphone, and now most people carry one in their pocket, often not realising it is a mini computer with potential to change life and farming as they know it. Now they realise 😉
Who are the key people in Herdwatch?
Many FRS staff and farmers contributed and continue to contribute to the Herdwatch story, but here are the main 2:
Fabien Peyaud: FRS IT Manager and Herdwatch co-founder within FRS Network (Farm Relief Services). Born and raised in France, moved to Ireland in 1996, 15 years IT experience, in various roles from systems analyst, programmer, to project manager. Based in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, Fabien has spent the last 2.5 years researching, designing and developing Herdwatch.
Peter Byrne: FRS Network CEO. Peter was a founding member of FRS Farm Relief Services 35 years ago, and has been at the helm ever since where he took FRS from a small niche market to a diversified portfolio of successful businesses from Fencing to Recruitment, Training and Homecare services. He has a wealth of skills, experience and industry contacts which have been invaluable to Herdwatch.
What’s next for Herdwatch?
We are currently in the testing phase of our UK version, which will double our market overnight when it is launched later this year. More immediately, we are gearing up for the biggest outdoor farming event in Europe, the National Ploughing Championships in September, where Herdwatch will be well represented with not one but two stands at the event! We expect to meet hundreds of farmers over the 3 day event, especically after the success of last year’s event where we could barely handle the crowds that came to see our Herdwatch preview.