Belfast Telegraph

farm wizard software brings A touch of magic to small business and agri industry

Terry Canning comes from a farming family and it seemed natural to him to bring together this background with his skills as an experienced IT architect, who has worked at a senior level with BT and Nortel Networks. So much so, that he gave up his job with Nortel to go it alone.

"I was working for Nortel and had been working in China for 10 months," Mr Canning said. "I then took voluntary redundancy."

By then he was working on his ideas for software that could enable farmers to use an internet-based interface to comply with the increasingly stringent and varied obligations to record the history and welfare of their animals. In 2004, Mr Canning approached Invest NI with his ideas and they were impressed. "I won a Smart Award, which gave me 75% of project costs, about £40,000," he said.

"I then started working in my attic, writing software, basing that on my knowledge of my dad's farm. I went to DARD [the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development] and they bought 50 subscriptions for farms in Northern Ireland."

Mr Canning then went to his bank, which advanced funds under the small firms' loan guarantee scheme. By this time, the business was already supplying the software to 150 farms in Northern Ireland and it had ambitious plans.

"Our software makes it easier for farmers to maintain records," said Mr Canning. "Ever since foot and mouth, farmers have had to keep records on vet treatments, animal movements and fertility. And on performance of the herd, for example on milk production."

Farm Wizard enables farmers to meet tougher legal requirements and also support the growing focus of retailers, and consumers, on food provenance.

Today Farm Wizard supplies about 1,000 farms in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. But it has also broken into other markets. "We have a number of corporate clients, for example, Dovecote Park, a beef processor which provides meat for Waitrose," said Mr Canning. Dovecote Park also uses the Farm Wizard software to provide reassurance on the provenance of its beef for other customers around the world, including the US, South America and for the largest grocery retailer in Africa, Shoprite Checkers.

The Farm Wizard software has gained wide respect across the farming industry but remains a small business. The operation sounds as if it is going well and is very busy? "Absolutely," said Mr Canning.