Sainsbury's embarks on farming tech cloud trial

Cartoon sheep

Sainsbury’s is supporting the research and development of a New Zealand-based company’s cloud technology that allows farmers to closely monitor parasite levels in sheep.

The supermarket giant has agreed to cover the cost of implementing Techion Group’s FECPAK G2 system at farms in the UK and New Zealand as part of a two-year research and development project.

The system consists of a photographic device, called the Micro-I, which captures a microscopic-level image of the animal, which is then uploaded to the cloud.

From here, a faecal egg count test can be performed on the sample by a web-based technician to ascertain the prevalence of parasites, and the results can then be stored online for future reference.

The company claims the cloud-based nature of the system provides farmers with faster access to veterinary and technical expertise, which in turn allows them to make quicker decisions about how to tackle the issue of parasites in their flocks.

It is also claimed the technology will help farmers pinpoint sheep that need treatment, which keeps costs down as they won’t need to administer drugs to the whole flock.

Greg Miriams, founder and managing director of Techion, said the performance of livestock can be seriously affected by the presence of parasites.

“The problem of increasing drug resistance by parasites ... means we have to be smarter on how and when we use them – so it’s important for farmers to make use of new technologies to make better decisions,” he added.

In a statement, announcing the project, Sainsbury’s said the technology will be rolled out to sheep farmers in New Zealand and the UK from its Producer Group, as part of its efforts to promote the use of sustainable farming methods.

“Sainsbury’s are committed to the view that frequent, accurate and reliable faecal egg counting on-farm with veterinary support will help encourage smarter, targeted use of anthelmintics [anti-parasite drugs] and management strategies,” it added.

Dr Eric Morgan from Bristol University has already evaluated the use of the technology in the UK.

“It is encouraging that our work with the system has show that FECPAKG2 is highly repeatable in the hands of different farmers in the field,” he said.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.