Using big data to take the strain out of pig farming today and in the future is the mission of Cloudfarms. CHRIS McCULLOUGH chats to co-founder and managing director JENS TOPPENBERG to discover how the company is excelling it’s knowledge and technology to do just that.
Traditionally, pig farming has been a labour intensive industry but now, thanks to innovative technological solutions, that burden has been eased.
Pig farmers today are finding it extremely difficult to attract and retain workers in the industry. Add that problem to the current crisis of rising costs, pig farmers need to search for alternative solutions to help them stay in business.
For almost ten years the brains behind Cloudfarms have been developing solutions to harvest the data generated on pig farms and use this knowledge to simplify the tasks of workers.
Today, the successful company is already operating on pig farms in several countries around the world helping the industry remain competitive whilst addressing the labour shortage in the process.
By introducing technology that can help the management of every aspect of pig husbandry, Cloudfarms is also making the sector a more attractive one to work in.
Chris: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Jens: I am from Denmark and have an education in mechanical engineering, but I have always worked in the IT industry. I worked in Oracle for 16 years, and in 2005 I moved from Denmark to Slovakia. In 2013 I quit my job and started Cloudfarms with my co-founder Gregor Rayman.
Chris: How did you arrive at this point in devising technology for pig farms?
Jens: I met some Danish farmers in Slovakia with a massive, multi-sided set-up pig production. They had, at that time, very primitive solutions to manage the day-to-day running of their farms. Based on my background in IT, I saw a need for a modern system that could help farmers get a better insight and control of pig production.
Chris: When did you first start developing this technology?
Jens: With the help of some of the most efficient farmers, they provided the knowledge of how they would like their production to be supported and what is needed in the future. In 2013 Gregor Rayman and I created Cloudfarms and built a cloud-based system for managing multi-sided pig productions.
Chris: What path did the development take?
Jens: We started creating a system for pork producers who rear pigs for slaughter. When that was developed, we moved to the genetics area, where we worked with some of the leading genetics companies in the world to create a solution that could be used on genetics or breeding farms to manage breeding animals. This solution can be used by genetics companies, breeding farms, or multiplication farms to control the animals’ maintenance, breeding, and sales.
Chris: When was the first Cloudfarms technology first used on a farm?
Jens: When we created Cloudfarms in 2014, we worked with four leading farms, one from Slovakia, one from Russia, and two Ukrainian farms. They were also the first farms that started using our solution. It took us five months to program the first product.
Chris: And what were the reasons the farmer invested in that tech?
Jens: In the old days, farmers registered their data on paper. Once a week they selected a report from the stables, sat down, and entered the data. That means the farm manager only had a view on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Our efficient and simple Cloudfarms solution provides a handheld device to enter the data on at the time of the activity. This allows the daily tasks on the farm to be available for management to see in real-time. The main benefits of the first releases were that the data was available everywhere. It’s faster, less data error, and management gets a real-time view of the production. At the same time, we could manage multi-sided set-ups and consolidate the results to the headquarters, also in real-time. Before they had that, it usually took them a month to get the data.
Chris: Since then, into which countries has the reach of Cloudfarms extended to?
Jens: Today we manage pig farms in most of Europe, with customers also from Australia, Asia, North and South America, and South Africa. In total, we have customers in more than 40 countries globally.
Chris: What sizes of farms are ideal for your pig management tech?
Jens: The Cloudfarms software can be used in all pig herd sizes. The highest value is provided to a multi-sided farm setup.
Chris: Technology is continually being updated. Are you constantly updating your solutions for pig farms?
Jens: Our pig management solution is built in a cloud. We in Cloudfarms are constantly improving the existing system and extending it with new functionalities that benefit the farm. We can release further updates multiple times a day, weekly or monthly. The Cloudfarms solution is constantly updated without the recognition of our users.
Chris: What three critical aspects of your technology will encourage farmers to invest?
Jens: Cloudfarms is easy to use and easy to start with. You use the handheld very efficiently with fewer errors in real-time. You can have as many mobiles connected as you want. There is no effort for farmers to keep the system updated. Farmers don’t need to have any technology experience. Cloudfarms will manage all the technology, backups, and security.
Chris: As Cloudfarms is a leading tech business, are there any new projects on the horizon?
Jens: The current market situation in the pig industry is that finding and keeping qualified workers on farms is very difficult. In Cloudfarms we have tried to address that by creating a Work management solution that would help the management structure and control different activities at the farm.
Chris: Where do you get your inspiration from to boost the business?
Jens: We work very closely with our customers, and we have some customers who want to push the borders and be more efficient. Having that input, we can create a solution that will support that.
Chris: Lastly, what is your main goal with Cloudfarms?
Jens: We want to be a leading solution provider for the pork supply chain worldwide.
Curious to learn more about pig management from Cloudfarms? Visit www.cloudfarms.com