An ear tag that links livestock to the world via satellite is a deceivingly simple concept, but one demanding a close partnership between its creators and Rezare Systems staff to leverage it from a data source into a valuable supply chain tool.
When David and Melita Smith, the founders of Ceres Tag in Australia came up with their tag concept, they intended to choose carefully when it came to the talent they employed to help develop it.
Both were conscious the tag’s ability to integrate with existing software tools was critical to keeping their offering a simple, easily purchased and easily initiated product for farmers and livestock managers.
“Keeping the options open in terms of software integration means purchasers have greater freedom on where and how they are going to employ the tags, meaning the tags themselves are really more of a supply chain tool,” says David Smith.
This has enabled Ceres Tag to broaden the market for the tags well beyond providing livestock location, health and movement data. Now selling in 20 countries, they are supplying game reserves in Africa with tags used for tracking endangered species including lions and giraffes, with the 35g tags an appealing option to heavy collared type technology.
That easy integration was extended to ease of purchase, with the tags capable of being bought direct online and delivered to anywhere in the world, installed and operable straight out of the box.
“The ability to link directly to a satellite and start transmitting makes their installation far simpler than using proprietary connections in what can often be quite remote locations, so ease of purchase really had to meet that ease of connection and use,” says Melita.
For Ceres data platform manager Heidi Perett, the challenge was to develop a portal that would enable the tag tech to integrate with the chosen software provider.
The Smith’s encounter with Rezare Systems CEO Andrew Cooke earlier meant he and the company were on the list of “must contact”. The couple had been impressed with Andrew’s role in the data working group of the International Committee for Animal Recording, and his team’s approach to software systems development.
A single meeting prior to the covid lockdowns in March 2020 was enough to get the project rolling.
“We needed Rezare Systems to develop the central cog of the software that would bring all the different pieces together that were needed to deliver data, including satellite data stream, regulatory data needs, e-commerce platforms, and all within a very secure system that would deliver in an efficient and automated fashion from tag to user,” says Heidi.
The Ceres team were impressed from the start with the Rezare Systems team’s ability to “blue sky” the project, appreciating the potential the tags had for scalability well beyond traditional livestock applications.
“They were quick to identify the challenges, and to gain good learnings from our initial prototype,” says Heidi.
During the development process the team was also testing at every step.
“It is very rare to have a system that is completely new to have testing integrated into it and we have been able to do that after the first six weeks of development all the way along, ensuring we have quite a robust system at the end.”
Development included using standard and known system interfaces and authentication programmes.
Moving from one e-commerce store to several since launch has been aided by having system design that was not dependent upon any single component, and flexible enough to work across different e-commerce outlets.
“We are building out further this year, and could not have done so if the baseline flexibility was not there.”
Regardless of the tech involved, any successful project comes down to people and how they interact during a project.
David and Melita have appreciated Rezare System’s clear lines of communication, with weekly catch ups as design progresses, regardless of how much or how little needs doing at that time.
“We have also been dealing with a team that has remained relatively the same, meaning they know us, and what we want, and you don’t always get that with development teams,” says Melita.
She looks on the project as very much a trans-Tasman tech project, such is the level of engagement and input they have enjoyed with Rezare Systems.
For Heidi the process has proven far easier than she anticipated at the start of the March 2020 lockdowns.