MDC joins forces with SproutX to fast-track new technology for red meat industry

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At JCU's Digital Homestead, e-tags monitor cattle's health and behaviour: now a SproutX pre-accelerator program participant has developed a wireless ear tag that takes cattle's temperature, alerting farmers to early signs of illness or stress.
At JCU's Digital Homestead, e-tags monitor cattle's health and behaviour: now a SproutX pre-accelerator program participant has developed a wireless ear tag that takes cattle's temperature, alerting farmers to early signs of illness or stress.
James Cook University/Digital Homestead

MLA Donor Company (MDC), a subsidiary of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), has teamed up with national ag-tech innovation hub SproutX to encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop ideas, technology and data solutions that tackle key issues in Australia's red meat and livestock industry.

MDC attracts voluntary investments in red-meat industry R&D from the commercial sector. The company's planned expenditure on R&D was more than AU$70 million over 2016.

The MDC-SproutX partnership will provide a pathway for the research, development and commercialisation of new technologies by ag-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs, several of whom are already working in livestock-related areas under the SproutX umbrella or with MLA's Donor Company.

Under the new partnership, start-up companies and entrepreneurs will link up with red-meat producers, including MLA members, to help solve issues in Australian livestock production and management by developing and commercialising new technology including:

  • ‘virtual fences’;
  • more efficient water-management systems;
  • livestock location technology;
  • improved reproduction methods;
  • solutions for methane reduction;
  • technology for pest and weed control;
  • innovations enabling better feed conversion; and
  • technologies and systems to improve animal health, welfare and mortality rates.

Check out some of the meat-processing technology that's already been developed by research collaborations forged by the MLA Donor Company.

BladeStop™ was developed by Scott Automation and Robotics in collaboration with Meat & Livestock Australia for commercial bandsaws to reduce the risk of injury to operators. It is robust enough to cope with the harsh environment of commercial meat-processing plants.

 
Robotic beef processing has become a reality: the video below shows how MLA Donor Company, JBS and Scott Technologies have advanced beef automation in Australia, applying learnings from lamb to robotic beef-rib-cutting.

SproutX start-ups move from lab to livestock farms

SproutX, a collaborative venture between government, industry and the private sector helmed by Findex and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), welcomed MDC as a founding industry partner that will bring research from laboratories and ‘co-working spaces’ into real-world livestock enterprises.

“Working with MDC means we can move cutting-edge research out of labs and offices and onto farms, where it can be tested and commercialised,” said Sam Trethewey, General Manager of SproutX.

“Some 18 of the 100 start-ups recently accepted into the SproutX pre-accelerator program are already focused purely on technology for livestock farms,” he noted, “while others are aiming to solve problems that will partially benefit red meat producers across Australia and internationally.”

MDC CEO Dr Christine Pitt said MDC is excited about the partnership with SproutX and the solutions it will foster.

“We need big ideas to put Australia’s red meat industry at the forefront of the growing global food revolution, which is why we’re working with Australian entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop new thinking, technologies and ideas on how research can be adopted and commercialised for use on-farm,” she said.

“We are also looking to develop productivity gains, digital solutions and offer completely new ways to effectively connect farmers to high-value marketplaces, in Asia and globally.”

Fast-tracking high-tech livestock management solutions

One entrepreneur involved in the SproutX pre-accelerator program is Vijay Viswanathan. Formerly involved in start-ups in Bangalore, India, and in the USA, he used his doctorate in industrial engineering and background in supply-chain analytics to develop a wireless ear-tag that monitors the temperature of cattle and alerts farm managers promptly to early signs of disease or stress.

Viswanathan said the support and enthusiasm he’s experienced since arriving in Australia and joining the SproutX program has been outstanding.

“I’m extremely impressed by how fast this all took off,” he told MLA. “When I came to Melbourne I had these preliminary ideas around improving network connectivity to better utilise data in Australian agriculture. I didn’t think that within two weeks I would be … meeting people that are actively encouraging us to make our research a reality.

“We are in front of the right people in the industry, which is a huge step in further developing our ideas towards commercialisation,” he said.

“The energy and appetite for this work in Australia right now is absolutely amazing.”

For more information, visit the SproutX online portal.

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Project: 
Direct Beef Export to China

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