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Tender called for livestock export app

Words by Judy Kennedy. Photos supplied by LiveCorp

Australia exported more than one million head of livestock worth $1.3 billion in the 2021-22 financial year, by sea and air.

The industry’s service provider, LiveCorp, is calling for an Australian-based solution provider to develop a new app for its LIVEXCollect data collection, storage and visualisation system, to enable more efficient data collection and near real-time analysis by exporters and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), as the regulator.

There is currently a requirement set by DAFF for a large amount of data to be collected and submitted daily by an accredited stockperson or veterinarian, on multiple areas such as animal welfare, health treatments and environmental conditions on livestock export ships.

Prior to the launch of LIVEXCollect in November 2020, data was collected and provided in a variety of formats.

“The development of the LIVEXCollect system was a quantum leap forward, with standardised fields and measures collected via Excel spreadsheets that vets and stockpersons complete daily, typically using the ship’s computer,” explains Tami McCarthy, Program Manager for LiveCorp.

RELATED: LiveCorp: Development of LIVEXCollect App

Data accessible, but not in real time

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LiveCorp

The Australian Livestock Export Corporation (LiveCorp) is the service provider and rural research and development corporation for Australia’s livestock …
  • Location

    Australia

  • Organisation type

    Research funding body

“The spreadsheets are currently emailed simultaneously to LiveCorp and DAFF. As the administrator, LiveCorp saves and manually uploads the spreadsheets to the LIVEXCollect database. Once a month, regulatory data is transferred to the department via an API .

“The introduction of LIVEXCollect meant that, for the first time, industry data has been in industry hands, as exporters can access their own data via Power BI dashboards. However, spreadsheets are only uploaded on completion of voyage, so data is not available in real time."

Tami said it’s now time to develop an app to take the data collection to the next level; to reduce the burden of data entry, increase data accuracy and create a strong foundation with a view to further scaling up functionality down the track.

“Confidentiality and data security are paramount for LIVEXCollect. LiveCorp therefore has a very strong focus on data integrity, security and governance to ensure LIVEXCollect data is collected, stored, used and shared in line with its terms and conditions and LiveCorp’s data governance policies. The database needs to ensure that regulatory data is separate to any industry data that an exporter may want to collect.”

Vet says current system cuts into ‘deck time’

Bronte Sutton is Group Veterinarian for Queensland-based AUSTREX, a major exporter of breeder and feeder cattle, and one of the early adopters of the LIVEXCollect dashboard.

AUSTREX exports over 100,000 head per year in 20-30 shipments, so could have two or three consignments on the water at any one time, or more than 10,000 animals.

“The data we’re collecting on ships is good but it’s clunky and time-consuming to input hundreds of entries in Excel each day. It also relies on the Excel skills of the accredited vets or stock persons, and they’re trained to care for livestock, not in data entry, so it’s potentially reducing their deck time,” Bronte explains.

“An app on a tablet, phone or device would improve collection and prevent double handling, and ideally allow multiple users. If there’s 6,000 head on a vessel and two decks per stockperson, each stockperson should have a device so they don’t have to pool their treatments. Plus, it ensures accuracy if it’s done on the spot.”

She says the Power BI dashboards are the best part of the LIVEXCollect system, allowing vets to continually review data and look at long term trends in deck conditions and, most importantly, morbidity and mortality.

Data proves welfare record to be proud of

“Essentially data is power. It gives us tools not only to alter how we manage our consignments but to proactively represent our industry. Our very low on-board mortality and morbidity rates are something to be really proud of, but we need to have the evidence to verify them,” said Bronte.

Increasing the accuracy and standardisation of the data being collected will improve the industry’s ability to analyse and gain value from the data. In turn, the data analysis will continue to feed into future iterations of both the app and the animal welfare measures themselves.

LiveCorp will work closely with the successful provider to ensure that they understand the livestock export supply chain, the intricacies of each stakeholder, and challenges to deliver an app that fits the industry and works for the end users in their unique environment. 

Long term plans for scaling data collection

One of the current challenges for transmission of data is limited connectivity from ship to shore. Added to this, there is currently little to no connectivity between the decks on the ships.

“An exporter may have livestock over six decks of a ship. Therefore, the app must be able to operate offline and then have data synced to another device and/or the LIVEXCollect database when ship to shore connectivity is available,” said Tami.

"The industry’s running trials to solve the intra-ship connectivity issue, which would mean developments like the ability for automated loggers which are recording all the temperatures on different decks to sync directly to the LIVEXCollect database, removing the need for the stockperson to enter these readings each day.”

“We’re excited to see what’s out there in terms of improving the system. In the future, I’d expect more data sharing through APIs, meaning the industry can collect and share data more efficiently.

“The aim is to have a long-term relationship with our supplier, to build a basic app and then support the functionality being scaled up in an efficient manner.

“However, in the first instance, we have to get the foundations right. The vets and stock persons are on the ships to look after the animals. We need to build an app that works for them first time, every time and reduces their time burden for reporting.”

LiveCorp’s CEO Wayne Collier said the new app will help to give the community the confidence that animal welfare is being closely monitored, measured and analysed for each day of a voyage.

Real time reporting provides ‘peace of mind’

"LIVEXCollect is used to report on a range of animal welfare measures, and real-time reporting through an app means faster reactions if conditions change,” said Wayne.

“Because this is standardised data, at an aggregated level it can also lead to more information being available to the community about industry performance.

“The value is in collecting quality data, using consistent measures, over time. If we can get high quality data through a strong, stable application that works on a ship, it will demonstrate the positives as well as identify areas where more work needs to be done in research or management.

“It’s all about our commitment to the welfare of the animals. As the custodians of the industry’s data, we want to capture information in an efficient, effective way to allow continual improvement.”

More details about the tender are available here. The closing date is 5pm Friday, 16 September 2022.