THE new way of living and doing business being forced on livestock producers as a result of the need to isolate in the face of a health crisis is speeding up the natural shift towards digital agriculture.
So says farm management software company Agriwebb, which has been at the forefront of farmer adaptation to meet changing consumer demands, especially for meat, as the virus crisis plays out.
It's important that in times of rapid consumer and supply chain change, farmers have the resources to quickly shift business and production focus, says John Fargher, farmer and co-founder of AgriWebb.
Beef producers were recognising that the massive drop in people eating at restaurants and food outlets due to closures could mean significant overhauls to their practices to focus on lower-value cuts rather than high-quality premium meat, he said.
Taking up new technologies could be a challenge for many farming families, but keeping up with shifting consumer demand was essential, Mr Fargher said.
Armed with the right visibility into their farms, farmers could also assure panic-buying consumers that there's plenty of meat to go around, and their preferences will consistently be catered for.
"We have seen booming trade in local produce shops and butchers, especially for products like mince," Mr Fargher said.
"Red meat is a product the market will always need - it's not so much a concern of being left with a high-quality product that no one wants but rather a reduction in the price premium.
"It's more important than ever that farmers take better control of their stock and assets, and make informed plans and decisions for the future.
"The farming sector is used to crisis. It's not unusual to be forced to adapt and innovate and one of the ways farmers can do that is digital tools and collecting and using data."
A macro issue - and one only likely to be exacerbated by current dynamics - was consumers wanting more transparency and that can't be delivered without data and information, he said.
"The ability to trace animals back to the farm will be invaluable in future, as will being able to track and look at the performance of animals," Mr Fargher said.
Meanwhile, it's still business as usual at the farmgate but operational shifts are happening to cater for social distancing.
"This is an area where technology can play a big part - bringing livestock producers closer to advisors and information entirely remotely," Mr Fargher said.
"It can both solve issues of social distancing and make things more efficient.
"An event like this is a catalyst to drive the digital age of agriculture, to really bring the virtual age into this industry."