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UK Supermarket Joins New Zealand AgTech Company in Parasite Research

14 August 2014

UK/NEW ZEALAND - British supermarket Sainsbury’s is teaming up with New Zealand’s Techion Group to run a cutting edge technology project.

The two-year international research & development project will roll out on-farm technology to effectively manage parasites increasing product quality and profits for farmers.

Sainsbury’s will support the cost of implementing Techion’s technology, the FECPAK G2 system, both in New Zealand and the UK. The project team includes meat processors Alliance Group (NZ), Dunbia (UK) and Randall Parker Foods (UK).

Greg Mirams, Founder and Managing Director of the animal parasite diagnostics company, Techion, is at the centre of the project. He is pictured second left with far left Lawrence Woodrow (Stock Manager), Warren Leslie (Farmer), Kevin Brown (Randall Parker UK) and Phil Hambling (Sainsbury’s).

Mr Mirams said he is confident it will have a significant impact on farmers’ profit and efficiency here and in the UK.

“How well livestock perform is heavily impacted by parasites – they’re the largest influencing factor on animal performance, after nutrition,” said Mr Mirams.

“The problem of increasing drug resistance by parasites to the drenches designed to kill them means we have to be smarter on how and when we use them – so it’s important for farmers to make use of new technologies to make better decisions.”

By linking veterinary and technical expertise with information generated straight from the paddock, the FECPAKG2 system will give farmers data to make informed parasite management decisions, increasing farm profits, lamb performance and reducing treatment costs.

“It’s certainly an exciting concept.” said Tony Plunkett, whose farm in Canterbury has already signed up to take part in the project.

“Testing the old way meant there was too much human error and it was taking too long. We’re using smart technology much more these days. Techion’s system is user friendly and puts accurate information at our fingertips so we can make a decision on the day whether we need to drench or not.”

Another farmer participating in the R&D, Warren Leslie agreed.

“Animal health is a big expense to me – NZ$6 a stock unit annually – and I want to make sure its money spent wisely, in a sustainable way.”

“As with any business keeping your attention on bottom line benefits of every dollar spent is what counts” said Mr Leslie.

“Sainsburys and Alliance supporting this opportunity for us to use Techion technology makes good sense as there are no better trials than those I can do than on my own property. Getting information and research on available technologies is good, but it’s often a challenge to know 100% whether they work, until they work on your own farm system,” he added.

Sainsbury’s are very pleased to support and encourage the rollout of this new technology for our sheep farmers in our Sainsbury’s Producer Group. It is part of a wider programme of initiatives to support efficient, sustainable production as well as protecting and improving animal welfare in the lamb sector.

Sainsbury’s said it is committed to the view that frequent, accurate and reliable faecal egg counting (FEC’s) on-farm with veterinary support, will help encourage smarter, targeted use of anthelmintics and management strategies.

By working together with their own sheep farmers and leading technical experts, Sainsbury’s are adding value in the areas of monitoring and combating resistance.

The initiative is building on an already proven track-record of success. In a three year EU Parasol Project, started in 2006, Techion’s original FECPAK system demonstrated what farmers can achieve. In all, 74 per cent of users reduced the number of drench treatments in lambs while not negatively impacting animal performance.

The latest release FECPAKG2 system looks set to achieve even greater results.

It removes many of the challenges of sending biological samples to a lab, or undertaking tests on farm and has already undergone evaluation in the UK under the guidance of Dr Eric Morgan from Bristol University.

“It is encouraging that our work with the system has shown that FECPAKG2 is highly repeatable in the hands of different farmers in the field” he said.

Murray Behrent, Livestock General Manager of Alliance Group, a key partner in Sainsbury’s New Zealand Producer Group is also confident farmers will find the system beneficial and easy to use.

“It is high-tech, but Techion have made it simple to get actionable results on a computer, no matter where the farmers are, in a short-time frame,” he said.

“We will always do our best out in the market place for our farmers but the more information and technology we can help them use to gain efficiencies behind the farm gate the better. This R&D project helps us do just that.”

Balancing all the challenges farmers face isn’t easy.

“They want to maximise animal performance, minimise drenching and labour costs while ensuring their total-farm approach is sustainable, and they are producing a quality product for their customers,” said Mr Mirams.

“FECPAKG2 is a new generation online system to help farmers get that balance right. Informed farmers make smarter decisions which deliver better results for the whole supply chain,” he added.

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