A central Queensland cattle breeder was seeking to improve the eating quality of his beef, so designed his own objective carcase measurement tool.
Darren Hamblin, who runs 6000 Wagyu cattle on his properties at Middlemount and Darling Downs is the brains behind Masterbeef - a platform that collects and analyses livestock data.
He has been breeding Wagyu cattle for two decades and said his top priority had always been eating quality.
Mr Hamblin said the best way to be successful in that space was to let data drive your decision-making.
"In order to breed the right animals, you need to have accurate information to help you make selections," he said.
"Before I was in Wagyus, I had a solid database of on-farm animal information. But then, when I got into Wagyus, I needed more detailed information."
Mr Hamblin started with databases that were already available, but found he still wanted more information.
"You can get marble score, meat colour and fat colour using Meat Standards Australia or the Aus-Meat assessment - but I wanted more than just that," he said.
"I wanted marble distribution and fineness - so more information about the texture of the meat and marble - so I could link it back to eating quality.
"For those attributes that I was searching for, I couldn't find [a platform] out there - so I built my own."
The unique aspect of Masterbeef is that it uses a phone app to capture carcase images.
"It takes the visual image and then uses all sorts of different artificial intelligence technology to find different parts of the image and analyse them," Mr Hamblin said.
"It knows the surface area and the perimeter of every piece of marble. It could find thousands of bits of information, and then you can convert this into fineness indexes or distribution of marble indexes."
Mr Hamblin described the assessments as "very accurate" and said the data was stored in the database permanently.
"Not only does it take the image, but it stores it for you for future reference," he said.
Mr Hamblin has been using his carcase grading tool in his own beef herd for two years and said he had already taken some key learnings from it.
"An abundance of marble certainly has a big impact on meat quality and eatability, but what's more important is texture," he said.
"For 20 years I've been breeding for volume of marble, but the app has given me the inputs to breed something that looks and tastes better."
The ranking of his bulls has also changed due to the camera results.
Mr Hamblin said the platform was originally developed for herd improvement in his own beef operation, but he soon realised the value it could have in other producers' operations.
So the next step was making it user-friendly for the public
Mr Hamblin said he was very grateful for the support and expertise of his friend Peter Hobbs, who helped bring his dream to reality.
"Every job I put to him he does and, if he didn't know how to do something, he'd figure it out," he said.
"I asked him if he thought he could build the app and he said he could."
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In addition, the pair worked with Mackay-based Queensland software developer iScape to get the app up and running.
"While I had been using the app successfully on my farm, we had to tidy up the interface to make it usable for the public," Mr Hamblin said.
The app has been available to the public for 12 months now and he said more than 9000 carcases had already been assessed by about 50 users.
"These range from people who kill their own stock, right through to large corporate abattoirs," he said.
Mr Hamblin said it didn't matter what platform you used, data collection should be an essential practice for any farm operation.
"Good, accurate data equates to sound and informed business decisions," he said.
"From producers to feedlot operators, abattoirs, sales and final customer feedback, everyone has a pivotal data role to play in the livestock supply chain."
Mr Hamblin said the benefit of Masterbeef was it was customised to handle any data source.
"Good quality livestock data is constantly being collected and generated by producers, government agencies, feedlots, abattoirs and countless third parties," he said.
"This data is disparate and comes in all shapes and sizes - making it difficult to manage and collate. But Masterbeef removes these complexities by providing an industry standard, secure data integration service."
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