Ireland's first ever virtual mart takes place today

Leitrim Observer reporter

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Limerick council offers reassurances that Rathkeale mart works all above board

Ireland’s first virtual mart will be held at Carnaross Mart in Co Meath

Irish Agri Software development company ‘Livestock Live’ has welcomed the decision by the Department of Agriculture which will allow mart infrastructure to be maximised. Livestock marts provide a crucial outlet to Irish farmers and account for some 1.5 million cattle and over 2 million sheep each year. Livestock Marts uniquely provide an open and transparent pricing system for farmers.

Brendan Hannigan CEO Livestock Live stated “We have been working with a number of leading marts in recent years providing them with leading edge software, and a farm management App. We have also been testing our novel technology, with cameras in sales rings, and an online bidding system (with the advent of Covid 19) and last week tested Ireland’s first virtual mart at Carnaross Mart in Meath.

"This trial worked well and ‘live tested’ our virtual mart technology. It is now possible to have virtual auctions that are physically closed to the public but are open online to buyers and provide realtime bidding information to farmers. We have been inundated in recent weeks with requests from major mart groups seeking to put our novel virtual mart system in place. We have also been liaising with the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine to develop acceptable protocols. We will now be offering a range of options to marts to put in place these protocols for the Department. We believe that our existing mart partners have the technology in place and most major marts could be in a position to offer on line virtual auctions with the coming weeks”.

Livestock Live (LSL) provide in-house software to livestock marts around Ireland for the last two years. They have developed a platform which, not only provides mart software but also allows remote online bidding, video streaming and an online document solution. In other words, a ‘Farmer Free’ online livestock mart.

LSL have been in communication with the Department of Agriculture and are working with a number of marts around the country, with a view to put in place virtual auction protocols, under the guidance of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

 They have proposed three separate options to find a way to keep the marts trading – those options are  - 

·        to operate a video streaming virtual live auction where animals are dropped off and collected. No public would be on the mart premises. 

·         to import the animal data from AIM, ICBF and Bord Bia to the auction. Videos are recorded at the farm and uploaded onto the platform. Estimated weights are entered (unless the seller has a weighing scales) After the auction, animals are organised to be delivered to the mart, weighed and price per kilo amended based on actual weight. Buyers collect animals at the mart. The mart use their internal software to report the movement to AIM. The mart facilitates the payment and collection of payments online to ensure sellers benefit from the mart guarantee payment scheme.

·         Similar to Option 2, LSL reports the ‘farm to farm’ movement via the LSL Farm Management App/software. The seller requests a certificate from AIM via the LSL App after the virtual online sale has completed. The bidding will mostly be based on estimated weights. The buyer must accept that the bids are placed based on the pre-recorded video and the estimated weight by the seller. The animals do not go to the mart to be weighed and each lot is sold as seen (pre-recorded video) and estimated weight. The buyer and seller arrange the transport of the lots directly.

Any marts held under these new protocols would be in full compliance with the advice, and guidance of the National Public Health Emergency Team, with Public Health protocols fully adhered to.

There is a full audit functionality for online bids to ensure transparency and accuracy.

LSL currently supplies thee major livestock marts in Ireland namely Gortatlea in Kerry, Carnaross in Meath and Manorhamilton in Leitrim, which are amongst the most important marts in the country

Over the past number of weeks with the pending pandemic of COVID-19, LSL set out to combine years of developed technology to prepare for a situation where marts could be closed to the public, but that normal public auctions could be replaced by online trading.

Due to Covid-19 public safety restrictions, LSL software can run solely online auctions at the marts to facilitate farm-to-farm sales with no public present at the mart. No public or farmers will enter the mart facilities. All bidding and viewing will be carried out entirely online.

LSL online bidding solution is an entirely ‘contactless’ system of selling live animals. All engagement with the farmer takes place online. It also ensures complete instant electronic compliance and checks to DAFM (Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine), and AIM (Animal Identification and Movement)regulations and movement compliance.

Last Tuesday (March 24) LSL tested the final version of this concept, with a live mart at Carnaross, Co Meath, before the Government shut-down. Webcams were installed into the ring and online bidding via mobile phone and PC were tested.

This was a pilot test with some farmers bidding and buying animals online via mobile App and PC’s remotely from the mart. This trial was very well received and exceeded expectations

The LSL App is easily and readily available, at no charge to the farmer, via Android and Apple platforms.