There has never been a more opportunistic time to be an Australian cattle farmer exporting to China: At least that’s what Borderless Cattle is telling the local market.
The company has developed a new “connected farm-to-palate” membership-based platform to give Australian cattle farmers direct access to its customers in China and vice versa.
The platform uses a host of technologies to let Chinese consumers and restaurants own livestock on an Australian cattle station, and to remotely monitor and track its health status and growth, and trace its movement until the meat is delivered to the plate in China.
A blanket solution using blockchain technology would be built as a layer on top of existing tracking and monitoring infrastructures used by farmers and abattoirs. This enables data to automatically be harvested from the wearable tech worn by the cattle and the biotech nanotechnology that will be printed over their skin. This way customer would have access to various levels of the identification and process management.
Customers would also have the option to opt-in to get direct visuals of their cattle through drones that would be overridden by geofencing technology.
“Basically the consumer will have a Tamagotchi of the cattle where they will understand the healthy levels and various grazing energy levels, and will be able to watch it in real-time,” said Dr Wei Siang Yu, founder and executive chairman of parent company Borderless Healthcare Group.
“We’re in the process of cartoonising the data into a Tamagotchi, so it becomes easy for them to track their cattle. They can also use it educate their kids about food safety and the need to respect the animal.”
Based on statistics from Meat and Livestock Australia, China’s official beef imports grew by almost 20-fold from 2011 to 2015, with Australia accounting for 34 per cent of those imports.
Dr Wei said the export numbers to China would grow now that there is a “new protein boom” in China, underpinned mainly by people’s desire for healthier and better-quality food, beyond what they can pick up in the local supermarket.
He said the underlying reason behind the demand for better quality food is being driven by China’s baby boom, following the relaxation of the country’s one-child policy in 2015, and women are instinctively becoming more conscious about what they’re eating, as well as feeding their children.
“China’s food industry is a haphazard environment, so we’re talking about creating a targeted, precise agriculture sector, so that they can have access to better quality food,” Dr Wei said.
Michael Ford, a key stakeholder of Borderless Cattle and director of Global Commodity Centre, said with the US-China free trade agreement now in place, competition for Australian cattle farmers is expected to further ramp up – and this platform will be the next-step advantage Australian farmers will have over competitors.
“One of the things we see is now because America and China have a trade agreement, American beef is being allowed into China, so we just don’t want to go for a race to the bottom due to the change in policy,” Mr Ford said.
“By getting the customer involved now in the process it’s a value-add for Australian beef. We don’t want to go head-to-head with the Americans in a price war because we will lose.
“We would lose because their labour structure is so much cheaper…where they pay $7.50 an hour and we pay someone $20-plus an hour.”
The program will begin in July 2018 with deliveries available to more than 300 cities across China. There are also plans to expand the technology for other livestock.