Thinking it was ridiculous he was still using pen and paper to track his flock, Katanning sheep farmer Allan Wilson began looking into building an app to replace his notebook in 2013. The result, released late last year, is MyMobTracker.
“In this day and age, I couldn’t work out for the life of me why we couldn’t find something that was better than that, so I went looking and just couldn’t find something that suited me,” Wilson said.
The app allows multiple users on a farm to record and share information about stock movements, treatments, and actions performed, enabling a user to easily see on their device where all their sheep are and their numbers.
A reconciliation function allows for easier end of financial year reporting, while the app also includes multiple rain gauges for a property, a water quality recording feature, and pregnancy tracking. Users are also able to assign and manage tasks among workers.
Wilson got started building the app after remembering a friend of his daughter’s from university who was handy with tech. After his daughter helped him get into contact, the friend helped Wilson find a developer.
“From what I’ve heard from other people, I’ve been fortunate to find this guy, because he’s become a good mate. He understood exactly what I needed, the absolute imperative that it had to work, the functionality had to be simple. From there I was in his hands,” Wilson said.
The development process took several years, with Wilson admitting this is because the app “hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind” – he is running a farm, after all. Getting people to test the app at different stages also meant users asking for various features, which then took further time to develop.
“It’s grown exponentially since what I started with, which was just putting in where the stock were on the farm every time you move them. Then people started saying, what about when I drench sheep? So we put a section on that in, so every chemical you’re able to treat sheep with, you can record in there. It’s all about those unintended consequences which now means you get a good traceability and historical record,” Wilson said.
Users can record their chemical usage, vaccines, vaccine batch numbers, and so on, information that is now becoming increasingly important for wool producers as well as food producers. This kind of information, as well as details on movements, are vital to animal disease control, while the app also allows users to enter National Vendor Declaration codes to aid traceability.
The time it took to build the platform was also due to Wilson simply wanting to get it right.
“I didn’t want to put it out there without it really working. I hate when you buy something and someone says it does this, this, and this but then you get it and it actually doesn’t. We also didn’t want to overstate what it is, it’s a recording instrument,” he said.
There are a couple of competitors in the field now, among them Melbourne company AgriWebb, a livestock management solution that looks to help farmers collect data and in turn make smarter farming decisions. While acknowledging the competition, Wilson believes there is a market too for a simpler tool like MyMobTracker.
MyMobTracker had a soft launch at a field day event last September, then officially launched with its Android platform in November. Users are offered a free three month trial, after which a plan costs $16.50 per month plus $5.50 per extra user.
Wilson said he has struggled with the price point, but believes the three month trial is enough time to give users a good indication of whether the app is useful enough to pay for.
“It’s only accurate as the things you put in, of course, it’s all about the data you put in, and I’ve got more features I can put in; I’ve had people people say, I thought it was going to do more, but I’ve spent enough energy and time and money at the moment that I just need to see what the uptake is going to be, and then we’ll go from there,” Wilson said.
“If there is interest and I can make a dollar out of it, then I’ll do more.”
With the Western Australian market relatively small – and spread out – Wilson’s focus in 2017 will be growing into the east coast.
Image: Allan Wilson. Source: Supplied.