Newest research centre data access portal to fuel innovation

Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

A beef cow eating from an automated feed bin, which has a metal flap, overlaid with a photo of Dr. Michelle Edwards and Dr. Lucas Alcantara, both smiling

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Data fuel insight and innovation. A new data portal at the Ontario Beef Research Centre will give researchers faster access to reliable data while building a documented data library that can be used to help answer agri-food's big questions, now and in the future.

Where’s the beef data? Researchers can now access routinely recorded beef data from the Ontario Beef Research Centre in Elora, Ont. through a centralized hub.

The Ontario Beef Research Centre Data Portal, a collaboration between Agri-Food Data Canada and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, gives users new, streamlined access to data generated at Ontario’s agri-food research centres while ensuring safe long-term storage to fuel future innovation.The new hub builds on the success of the Ontario Dairy Research Centre portal, which went live in 2023.

“The Ontario Beef Research Centre Data Portal will enhance efficiency and facilitate more accurate research in the beef industry, providing a seamless experience for accessing critical data points essential for advancing knowledge and improving beef production practices,” says Dr. Lucas Alcantara, manager of research centre data at the University of Guelph, who developed the portal.

This new resource brings together essential information about beef cattle, including the following:

  • body weight
  • health events (vaccinations, hoof trimmings, disease treatments, etc.)
  • reproduction-related events (breeding protocols, gestation length, pedigree records, etc.)
  • calving details (birth weight, calving ease, etc.)
  • feeding events (animal-level diet consumed, feeding duration and intake per visit)
  • feed analysis (diet and ingredient-level composition, such as dry matter and energy content)
  • history of Canadian Cattle Identification Agency tag changes

Users may access recorded data through the unique animal tag identification, simplifying analysis from multiple sources.

Advanced data governance benefits research

Because the portal integrates proper data governance practices, data access is both secure and customizable. “Being able to pinpoint data governance on a project level is a major advancement in the field,” says Alcantara. “We are at the forefront.”

The portal grants tailored access for authorized users while preventing access to unrelated data. It also allows users to create projects and “enrol” cows with specified start and end dates for each animal.

This approach saves student researchers time by pre-filtering their data. It also saves staff time because the platform automatically applies permissions set at the project level to every available data source.

“Agri-food Data Canada is so pleased to be supporting the agri-food industry by providing secure access to data, in line with best practices, that will help researchers become leaders in their field and ensure the data collected is useable in the future,” says Dr. Michelle Edwards, director of agri-food strategy at U of G.

The future of agri-food data

Beef portal organizers plan to integrate data from farther along the supply chain through the U of G Meat Science Laboratory, with information that could include, for example, carcass metrics.

A similar portal is planned for the new Ontario Swine Research Centre, also part of the  modern research corridor in Elora.

“These data portals help deliver value to the research community,” says Edwards. “By making these investments now, we make data much more useable in the future.”

Ontario’s agri-food research centres are owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario and managed by the University of Guelph through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

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