Remember the rotary dial telephone? Manually filling out forms will soon be a similar distant memory, when farmers will all be using a new tool called Feather Central instead of a pen.
Developed in Ontario by BIO, specializing in data transfer, in partnership with IT specialist Farms.com, Feather Central allows farmers to trace their birds from the hatchery to the processor electronically, replacing the manual forms currently in use.
The Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) spearheaded the project that enables farmers to record their data on-line, reducing the paper burden and allowing the information to be transferred quickly and easily. CFO administers the program for Ontario Broiler farmers.
There are two components to Feather Central. The first is traceability, linking the hatchery through to the processor, collecting the same data that is currently recorded with pen and paper. “It’s the same information,” said Betty Jo Almond, Sales and Service Manager at BIO, “just in real time now.”
A second component services on farm food safety programs, allowing the daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly collection of data such as temperature and light settings in the barn, or cleaning and disinfecting records, for example.
What BIO will do is provide customer support, beginning by helping to set up your farm under the program, barn location(s), number of barns and number of floors. As a crop is set at each location an order of activities can be customized. The farmer already does the checks but now data can be recorded right away, in sequence, without going back to the office. The accumulated data may be used to compare flocks or track crops by barn and floor, providing a history for future planning.
Documents such as certificates or visitor log-ins can be uploaded as well, and specific personnel — managers and barn workers — can be given access to particular data. “A manager can look at all the barns,” said Almond, “while laborers may only see their own barn.”
To use Feather Central you will need a hardware device that can access the internet. At this time if you want to download Feather Central as an app you will need an Apple product, said Almond - an iphone, ipod or ipad. She explained that you don’t need to be connected to the internet in the barn to use the app — each day the information can be uploaded by hitting the “synchronize” button when you get back to the house.
For data security Feather Central uses the same systems as on-line banking. The information is secure, backed up and readily available, and through the feathercentral.com website, accessible from anywhere in the world. Going on vacation? You can still monitor your data, even from pool-side, said Almond.
BIO sees all turkey, broiler, pullett and egg farmers as potential users for Feather Central as a tool for data collection, and hopes to attract the interest of provincial organizations for the traceability application. The data collection component costs $25 per month for one barn, for a total of $300 per year, and an additional $50 per year for each additional barn. On the traceability side, the price will depend on what services are required in each province.