Virtual marts: Online ‘farmer-free’ auctions to take place from next week

The decision by the Department of Agriculture to allow infrastructure in marts to be maximised has been welcomed by Irish agri software development company Livestock Live (LSL).

In addition, the firm believes that its technology could further advance marts offering “online virtual auctions” in the coming weeks following a successful pilot last week.

Brendan Hannigan, CEO of LSL, 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 technology with cameras in sales rings and an online bidding system with the advent of Covid-19, and last week hosted Ireland’s first virtual mart at Carnaross Mart in Meath.

Webcams were installed into the ring and online bidding via mobile phone and PC was tested last Tuesday, March 24.

“This trial worked well and live-tested our virtual mart technology,” Hannigan added.

LSL has been providing in-house software to livestock marts around Ireland for the last two years.

The firm says it has 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 has been in touch with the department and is 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.

The company has two options to find a way to keep the marts trading:
  1. To operate a video streaming virtual live auction where animals are dropped off, weighed, sold via virtual auction and collected. Bidding would be conducted online but no public would be on the premises;
  2. To import the animal data from Animal Identification and Movements (AIM), Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) and Bord Bia to the virtual auction platform. Videos are recorded at the farm and uploaded onto the LSL mart system. Estimated weights are entered, unless the seller has a weighing scales.

Under the second option, after the auction, animals would be delivered to the mart, weighed and price per kilo amended based on actual weight. Buyers would then collect animals at the mart, and the mart would use its 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, LSL added.

There is no charge to the buyer or seller to use the LSL virtual mart platform.

According to the agri-tech firm, some of its client marts will be back online as early as Monday next week trading via LSL virtual mart platform.

LSL online bidding solution is an entirely ‘contactless’ system of selling live animals. All engagement with the farmer takes place online and is fully compliant with public health guidelines, the company says.