Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Govt backs biosecurity app for rural sector

The Government is strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system with investments in biosecurity technology to support our rural sector’s economic security, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

The Government will invest $4 million over four years from the Ministry of Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund (SFF Futures) to expand a biosecurity readiness and response app developed by Onside Ltd.

“As a trading nation and one with an abundance of unique plants and wildlife, biosecurity is fundamental to our economic security,” said Mr O’Connor.

“Primary sector exports are supporting the growth of the economy, which is bigger than even before COVID. This is why we are continuously improving our systems to stop incursions from occurring, and ensuring we have the ability to quickly stamp them out if needed,” he said.

Onside’s biosecurity software (OSI) uses data from a range of sources to quickly map out rural interactions and potential disease pathways, which could save New Zealand hundreds of millions of dollars by helping the speed of a response, the Minister said.

“Our investment together with Onside’s $6 million contribution means a quick scale-up and adoption by the sector. The more farms that use Onside, the more effectively and accurately we will be able to manage future biosecurity risks.”

Onside began in 2016 as a visitor management and health and safety tool, providing a simple digital check-in to keep track of farm visitors. It has since evolved into a comprehensive operations software for all rural sectors, including viticulture, horticulture, agriculture, and contracting businesses servicing the rural sector in more than 14,000 properties.

Ryan Higgs, Onside Co-founder and CEO, says, “It is great to have the backing of the MPI to deliver on our mission to revolutionise biosecurity and exciting to be working with KVH to put the technology into practice.” 

Onside is headquartered in Christchurch, but has operations in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and its data science leadership is based in New York.

“Understanding the risk of a biosecurity incursion is a complex problem in large networks so we have sought out the best scientists in the world to work with us,” Mr Higgs said. 

The Minister said today’s funding announcement would support Onside to grow and continue to develop OSI algorithms and technology in collaboration with some of the world’s top data scientists.

“We’ve shown with the success of the Mycoplasma bovis programme what we can achieve together when an incursion happens, but we want to reduce risk as much as possible to prevent the costs and effects for individual farmers and growers,” said Mr O’Connor.

“We’re proud to back this programme, which is paving the way towards providing biosecurity solutions that protect our environment, our animals and our economic security.”

Primary sector export revenue is forecast to reach a record $50.8 billion for the year ending June 2022.

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