The Key to Unlocking the Value of Data Is in the Industry's Hands

Deborah Wilson, Sr. Vice President, BIXSCO Inc.

During the month of June 2015, I had the great privilege of formally interviewing nearly twenty industry leaders from all parts of the supply chain to discuss a critical topic—the issue of exchanging information. (A full summary of information is available at a link below). Those of you who know me know that this issue has been on my radar for years. This is why I agreed to join a startup technology company (BIXSCO) when most women at my stage of life (notice I didn’t say age, I said stage) would be finding ways to wind down.  


I believe that industry-wide data sharing is critically important. Despite my passion, I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. Talk to the hand Deb, some might say. Instead, let me talk to a couple of other important localities. The first is your back pocket. The second is your chest pocket. But don’t take my word for it. Take it from the cross section of industry leaders I spent hours with on the phone.

The first thing they will tell you, as they told me, is that information is power. It’s the key to understanding what you’re producing so you can do it better, faster, with a higher quality—and get properly rewarded for the meat you’re able to produce. One insider told me that there could be up to twenty-five percent more profit if producers have access to data information flow at the cow/calf stage.

It’s also the key to accessing the world’s high value markets like Asia and Europe—who are asking us to prove the history of care of our animals, which at the moment, we aren’t able to do. Countries that can—like Ireland and Australia—are going to gain a much bigger share of these markets while fight amongst ourselves, thinking that the best way to make money is at someone else’s expense (their words, not mine).

I was happy to hear them say that the industry has a lot of confidence in BIXSCO’s management and is willing to give BIXS another shot after a disappointing first attempt. And while they’re optimistic, they’re also realistic about our chances for success. So they’re sceptical about whether BIXS can overcome the competitiveness, mistrust, and complacency that plague the industry and have delayed the evolution of data sharing.

That’s why our job at BIXSCO is to help the industry imagine the value of an integrated supply chain, and to help everyone (from producers through to packers) find their own ways to unlock the value of information by buying and selling it to others. We’re here to help facilitate those relationships so that everyone can find value. When we do that, some believe that industry fragmentation will be a thing of the past. Others wonder if mandating data sharing is the only realistic solution. The answer is clearly in the industry’s own hands.

Now that I’ve addressed your back pocket, let me talk to the chest pocket—specifically the left side pocket. Yes, I’m speaking to your heart now, and the pride that every one of us feels about being part of this industry. But again, don’t take my word for it. Listen to the industry leaders I interviewed. They’ll tell you that Canadian beef is recognized as the highest quality protein in the world, raised right by producers who care. They’ll tell you that you’re part of a great industry with a great story. They’ll also tell you that none of that matters because we can’t prove our promises. And that’s the other important thing that BIXS can do— reflect the pride of care that goes into raising, feeding, and packaging our beef. By helping to track those practices through the chain, we can strengthen and protect the whole industry while helping individual players extract value from their data.

The last thing these industry leaders told us is that our job isn’t going to be easy. So our goal is to start with some small wins. As a sign of positive momentum, several breed associations are now prepared to bridge their databases with BIXS to allow their data to flow through the chain. This is an important first step, providing us with millions of new records. Secondly, the packers have agreed to re-engage with BIXS by inputting their most recent carcass data into the system. These are exciting new developments for sure, but we still have other hurdles to overcome. We’re working on technology and website improvements, and have developed a strong industry engagement plan that we’ll roll out later this fall.

Over the next few months, we’ll keep building momentum by getting support from different parts of the chain—starting with the most interested and engaged parts of the industry that already buy into the importance of data sharing. Maybe you’re not interested in unlocking the value of the data that you already have. Perhaps you don’t want to get compensated by other parts of the chain for the value of your work or the pride you take. After all, improving marketing, management, and profitability isn’t for everyone. But if it’s for you, get on board! In fact, what are you waiting for? If everyone waits until someone else takes the first move, we’ll never progress. If you haven’t already signed on to BIXS, please take a moment to sign up now—it’s as easy as three simple steps (www.bixs2.ca). And please encourage others to do the same.

BIXSCO is helping to unlock the value of data. But you hold the key. If you don’t believe me, read the summary report by contacting me at dwilson@bixsco.com.