"If you'd asked me what a heifer was three years ago, I would have said next question," says Fabien Peyaud, founder of Herdwatch, a cloud-based "mobile CRM for cows".
“I did a lot of learning about farming. Not enough to be a farmer, but at the same time, it’s good to be in touch with what they do.” He has become “quite passionate” about farming over the last three years while researching and developing the technology behind Herdwatch.
Born and raised in France, Peyaud moved to Ireland 18 years ago and “never went back”. Peyaud still has his day job as an IT manager for the FRS Network. The company has supported and co-founded Herdwatch.
“Dealing with cattle farmers on the ground on a daily basis” was a big part of his day job. He realised that, generally, farmers were not using technology. “I’m an IT guy, so naturally the thing to do was to figure out how we can help farmers with the adoption of technology,” he said.
He spent six months researching and discovered that more than 90 per cent of farmers did not use any kind of digital herd management system. “It was a staggering figure. I had to check and re-check it. It’s just seemed kind of unusual.”
Peyaud looked at the two PC-based software solutions on the market to figure out why. “Essentially, every farmer we spoke to, including one that had both of those products, weren’t using them.
“They’re very complicated and expensive, and they’re not mobile. You have to go home in the evening, fire up the PC, get a half day’s training to use them,” he said.
Over the next year, Peyaud developed a solution that was easy to use, truly mobile and good value for money.
The mobile-optimised website went live in February 2014, and Peyaud quickly developed a version two based on customer feedback.
“Herdwatch is all about easy compliance and access to valuable farm records anytime, anywhere,” says Peyaud. “It takes away the pain of having to deal with paperwork when there’s no need for it.”
Herdwatch is approved by the Department of Agriculture, and farmers can register calves or which animals have been dosed with livestock medicines “in about 30 seconds in the yard”, says Peyaud, rather than filling out forms on paper or online “after a long day’s work”.
Herdwatch can also send information to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.
Peyaud kept wifi/mobile connectivity issues in mind during development. All herd information is available offline and updates automatically the next time a farmer is online. It is cloud-based, so if a farmer loses or breaks a phone, all is not lost.
It also has built-in compliance reports so that when farmers are inspected, they can print the Herdwatch report and be compliant. “The feedback from this has been phenomenal. That’s one thing farmers have struggled with for years,” he says.
He estimates the subscription-based service, currently priced at €99 per herd per year, can save farmers three to four hours of paperwork a week. Herdwatch is a finalist in the AIB Start-up Academy. For more information, go to www.herdwatch.ie.