< Innovation is key for improved sustainability explains Prof Jonathan Statham
Prof Jonathan Statham

Beef farming is part of the solution to climate change and balancing sustainable food production, but innovation and change are needed to achieve the potential, said Professor Jonathan Statham, Chief Executive of RAFT Solutions and Chair of Bishopton Veterinary Group.

He highlighted the role of fertility in improving sustainability of beef production. “Good fertility drives productivity, and therefore supports mitigating those greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Technology and data were needed to drive solutions and RAFT was involved in work to bring this forward, he continued. A UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) funded two-year project alongside partners in Canada was looking at six key elements including the role of germplasm quality and transport as well as other innovations to improve fertilisation success, he explained.

“The challenge is to take advanced breeding techniques and make sure that genetic potential becomes phenotypic reality,” he said. Quality testing labs had been established in the UK and Canada. Researchers were investigating the opportunities of ‘big data’ in both countries via smartphone applications, where feedback is used to manage precision phenotyping work.

They were looking into transport of germplasm aiming to find practical ways to move it where needed without liquid nitrogen or in other innovative ways which were cheaper, safer and potentially more sustainable. They were also researching immune priming technologies currently being used in other species to see if they can improve fertilisation success, he said.

“Finally it's evaluating these things practically in the field so we can support the entry of these technologies out onto farm.”

Data forms a key part of all of this work, he added. “We're really pleased for RAFT to link up with the human diagnostics and data specialist PDX to form a new venture. VetDX brings together PDX’s expertise with data management with RAFT’s links into the animal breeding sector.”