It's not about numbers, it's about peace of mind
When someone talks to you about data, the first things that spring to mind are usually spreadsheets, numbers and headaches. However, when it comes to farming, data is critical to successful operations.
SmartOysters' chief technology officer, James Horton, says that from a data point-of-view, the app captures the activity on the farm.
"The data is what you're doing. If you break it down at the simplest level, farming is knowing what to do, where to do it and when to do it. It's all about doing something in a particular place at a particular time. That knowledge of knowing when to do it is the data," he says.
"What SmartOysters is doing is capturing that information. When something gets done, whether it's turning around a basket or conducting maintenance, it captures the location where it's been done, what's been done and the time it was done.
"That capture allows you to plan what needs to be done next. That’s the other key thing - the scheduling. All those activities that need to be done tomorrow, next week, next month and where it needs to be done is what farmers have traditionally had to carry in their heads."
That works well enough for a while but becomes more difficult as the farm grows.
"A farmer has a number of activities a day that need to get done. Typically all that information is done on spreadsheets and whiteboards and any decision making or scheduling is solely reliant on the farmer's memory. When you take all of that knowledge and externalise it into data (i.e. in the app), that knowledge can be transferred and imparted to farm workers and farm managers," James says.
"When I first attended a farm conference last year for a breakout session with SmartOysters users, their testimonials were not so much about how great the app was, but that the consequences of the app meant they could get off the farm. Typically, a farmer never leaves a farm, and on those rare occasions when they're not on the farm they're thinking about the farm.
"They said that the app meant they could check out at the end of the day knowing everything that had been done had been recorded. They didn't have to worry about having missed a crop somewhere."
James believes this data is "the blueprint for running the farm."
"The intellectual property of the farmer is the farm practice. How you grow oysters in that part of the estuary will be different from somewhere else. There are different conditions, so water behaves in a different way. You are essentially taking all of that information out of the farmer's head and saying, ‘Here's the operating manual," James says.
"SmartOysters Co-Founder, Ewan has great story about one of OysterLife's farm managers, Jase Finlay. Jase doesn't come from an oyster farming background. Without access to farm operations data, Ewan wouldn't have been able to onboard him so quickly. As it was, Jase was able to take over in a matter of months despite having no prior experience. By giving Jase the app Ewan was saying, 'This is what needs to be done, go out there to the flashing icon, it will tell you what you need to do and what you need to record'. It was the farm's operating manual in practice."
"You can't put a price on that."