RDB, SA Stud Book innovate to secure SA food security

SA Stud Book innovate to secure SA food security

The South African Stud Book and Animal Improvement Association (SA Stud Book), which has been in existence since 1905, is a key contributor to South Africa, having some of the world’s top farmers and breeders of top-quality livestock and other animals.

Today, farming and breeding are firmly grounded in the technology that is available to the agriculture sector and SA Stud Book continues to innovate through its relationship with RDB Consulting. The partnership is making a profound contribution to intelligent decisions being made by farmers around such aspects as their investments in livestock for better breeding lines and using genetics and molecular biology to keep South Africa a world leader in agriculture.

The ELITE awards

The SA Stud Book decided to formally recognise excellence in local farming and in 2012 launched its gala ELITE Awards ceremony, which last year had over 1 000 virtual online participants in addition to the 200 people physically attending the awards banquet.

RDB Consulting recognises the impact innovation in technology is bringing to the livestock sector and has been sponsoring the Unique Performer of the Year category for the past two years and will do so again in 2023, when the winner of this category will be honoured at this year’s banquet, in Bloemfontein, at the Monte Bello Estate on 1 May, and live streamed by Agri Voice.

“There are 15 award categories and we feel this is the one best fitted to us,” says RDB Consulting’s systems analyst, Kgosi Moleme. “For a breeder of livestock to be at the forefront of modern-day breeding would be impossible if they were reticent towards using the latest technology – which ranges from computer and related technologies to molecular genetics. In all cases, eligible nominees in this category embrace these technologies.”

The rationale for RDB Consulting

“SA Stud Book opted to focus on its core business of rendering a quality data provision service, allowing breeders of livestock and other animals to record the traits, properties and characteristics of their animals to be used in making the right management and breeding decisions around their herds and flocks,” says Jacques Joubert, RDB’s service delivery manager. “This is a unique client, unique partnership and very interesting field for us.

“As SA Stud Book is embedded in research and development and sells data as a product, it needs a well-managed, trustworthy computer system and dynamic database that must be accessible through web interfaces on a 24×7 basis. They believe IT is not their speciality and want to stick to what they do best and this is where RDB Consulting fits in.

“The IT infrastructure must meet the demands of performing major calculations involving complicated matrix algebra algorithms from data generated at farm level and from genetic laboratories (reflecting the genotypes of the animals). RDB takes care of computer system upkeep and database management so SA Stud Book can focus on what it does best. We are proud to have a perfect symbiosis with Stud Book’s IT development team, geneticists and technical advisors.”

The agriculture landscape is firmly in the era of digital transformation and using big data, artificial intelligence and automated data generation for precision farming. Added to this is that consumers have become demanding and want to know about the origin, quality and safety of their food. These factors, as well as track-and-trace in a country where stock theft is a major problem, highlight the necessity and focus on micro-chipping or having SIM cards in animal ear tags to trace stolen stock.

Then there is the extension of calculations in providing even lower risk in taking breeding and management decisions, built on intelligent systems, making use of aids such as machine learning, which require consideration of digital steps.

Compliance and information exchange

“In pursuing these, Stud Book relies on its partnership with RDB Consulting to make sure that the computing part of our operation is firing on all cylinders and is always available for Stud Book’s developers, scientists and especially clients,” stresses Dr Japie van der Westhuizen, SA Stud Book’s general manager.

“It also has to ensure compliance with international guidelines, laws and regulations around breeding, DNA, genetics and molecular biology and enable the exchange of information with the communities and working groups we partner with so that, as a global collective, we remain at the forefront of livestock and domestic animal breeding and the 21st-century precision farming that all farmers strive towards.”

“When first appointed, RDB immediately engaged in a needs assessment and assisted in acquiring the requisite hardware to address the needs and future expansion of Stud Book, but also assisted with the redundancy plans to keep the system running 24×7, securely backed-up and fast,” says Dr Bobbie van der Westhuizen, who leads SA Stud Book’s Genetic and Advisory Services.

“The environment was undocumented so there was a discovery process and RDB Consulting has secured the expected documentation, and supplies clear monthly reports, fully understandable by Stud Book’s management.”

“We took a deep dive into the application functionality integration, to understand the environment dependencies and so on,” says Joubert. “From there, we designed the technical and solution architecture and planned the end-state, migration and modernisation from the components they used.

“The implementation of the system occurred while its legacy version remained operational, which involved bringing other changes to the SA Stud Book environment, such as a proper backup regime. With the sensitivity and nature of the data – which holds around 200 million animal records – a sound cyber security strategy is an integral component of what RDB Consulting enables.

“Now SA Stud Book can enjoy the expanding potential of its technology investments, such as in research and development and custom-made services, and this has attracted more industries and societies whose members can use SA Stud Book as an authoritative service provider.”