Digital technology up for discussion

Several industry specialists have suggested that we are entering another agricultural revolution.
Simon Doherty of Blackwater ConsultancySimon Doherty of Blackwater Consultancy
Simon Doherty of Blackwater Consultancy

One of the global veterinary pharmaceutical companies has already coined the phrase ‘internet of animal health things’, in reference to the rapid expansion of the range of connected devices being developed for animals – from robotic milking parlours embedded with a vast array of sensor technologies, to ‘wearables’ for every animal from cats and dogs to dairy cows.

In his presentation to the YFCU ‘Inspire’ Agri Conference at the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown, on 21 January 2017, Simon Doherty will explore how digital technologies are revolutionising the global animal health industry, including examples of game-changing innovations that are approaching the market.

Universities, research institutes and commercial companies throughout the UK and Ireland are at the forefront of this wave of technological evolution. While there are early adopters with any new tech, the big wins will arise when it becomes commercially viable for the majority of producers to take the plunge and make the capital investment to join the party!

It is estimated that, with the exponential growth of the internet there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2050. But the question is: just how many of these will be directly linked to or worn by animals?

Courtesy of his presentation Simon will also pose a number of other very relevant questions. These include: are there wider implications for the use of such technologies? Who owns the data? Does it matter if we are increasingly moving towards open data platforms anyway? Who will have responsibility for regulating the use of digital technologies in animals?

“We’re entering a new era of livestock production and it is critically important that the next generation of primary producers and veterinary surgeons are at the table when these conversations are taking place,” he said.

Simon Doherty is the Animal Science & Aquaculture Specialist for the UK Department for International Trade. A veterinary surgeon from North Down, he is recognised within the animal health sector for his expertise in innovation, and international trade and investment. Simon is the Senior Vice-President of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association (NIVA) and the NI Branch of the British Veterinary Association (BVA). He is an Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast, and is a trustee of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation (BVA:AWF), and of livestock development charity, Send a Cow.

Robert McConaghy, chair of the YFCU agriculture and rural affairs committee, said the Inspire conference takes place at a time of tremendous change for agriculture in Northern Ireland.

“But with change comes opportunity. And it is this driver which will form the backdrop to the event.

“We want to enthuse and excite delegates about the tremendous prospects that exist as they plan the future of their own farming and related businesses. Regardless of sector, the event has something to offer every agribusiness.”

Robert continued: “Our conference is an event which will provide speakers with an opportunity to address all of the key drivers for farming moving forwards: market prospects, the future support needs of the industry and the absolute necessity to improve technical efficiency levels at farm level.

“As a result, it will resonate with farmers and stakeholder representatives of all ages.”

For further information, telephone YFCU on (028)  9037 0713 or visit