Finding Creative Uses for Data

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Recently I had the joy of reading an article about a new app, developed by Scotland’s Rural College, (SRUC, ww1.sruc.ac.uk/). This app is currently being trialed, with the idea behind it being that it can allow for the emotional state of livestock to be recorded based on specific descriptive terms.  

Now, on the face of it, this is a seemingly random app to develop. Not only is it looking at a seemingly strange bit of data to record, but it also is based on qualitative, difficult to measure descriptions. Making this even more confusing, is the fact that the app intends to measure data taken from 20 different species of common livestock, ranging from pigs to ducks.

But when you investigate it, this app is a great idea of applying good data science to a complicated problem, in a creative way. In recent years, there has been an increase in responsibility for our farms to care for their livestock in an ethical, sustainable way. More and more, the average consumer is thinking about the emotional state of farmed animals, driven by greater awareness of the suffering that can potentially be inflicted in the name of cheap food growth.

And whether this care for the animals’ needs comes from an empathetic place, or from a belief that it leads to higher quality produce, I think we can all agree it’s important. But without collecting data, there is no way of knowing how well our farms are now doing; there is no accountability, and no way to know what methods are working and which aren’t in a confirmed manner.  

Using the app, each of the descriptive statements are given a slider to measure the level of agreement the observer feels. This data is then sent off to a central hub, where the results for all observed animals across the registered farms can be collated and analysed.  

Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder, who is responsible for developing the app, summarised it well -  

“QBA (Qualitative Behavioural Assessment) not only provides a way to assess these factors, it also opens up the conversation about what positive emotional wellbeing for an animal truly looks like.

“Because we believe fundamentally that animals are not simply production systems to be managed.

“They are sentient creatures that must be cared for.”

So, looking at this, we can see a brilliant example of how data can be recorded and used in a very creative manner, to highlight a new efficiency in a long-established industry, and potentially lead to the growth and expansion of certain farms and their respective businesses who excel. So why wouldn’t you want the same for your business?  

It’s so important to think outside the box when it comes to your everyday work – because the work you do is important, and you do yourself an injustice by falling into a routine where you don’t innovate and try and look at doing things differently. No matter what you try, you need to collect data so you can know what works and what doesn’t, and prove to yourself and your stakeholders that a new direction is warranted, or that an old part of your company is no longer profitable.  

For more information, please feel free to take a look at this article, (https://www.sruc.ac.uk/news/article/2807/taking_animal_feelings_seriously).

For anything else, just give us a message, and we’ll do our best to help  you take your next step.  

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