Need to Know: Hubert Lau
He’s an IT whiz with dozens of great builds to his credit. Now he’s aiming to revolutionize the beef industry
by Michael Ganley
Higher ed: NAIT, computer systems technology
Hubert Lau has owned an IT consulting business for 15 years. Three years ago, he was approached by Viewtrak Technologies, a company developing proprietary software for tracking cattle from field to plate. Viewtrak was headed for receivership, but Lau thought it had potential, so he jumped onboard.
Then, a year ago, he came across Bixs, a software platform owned by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association that was gathering data about beef. “It didn’t seem to be getting anywhere,” he says, “but it had a great concept, which was to help producers share information through the value chain.” He convinced the CCA to sell the technology to Bixsco, a joint venture between Viewtrak and the CCA. Since then, Lau has worked on a platform where people can share information while protecting privacy and intellectual property. “There are pockets of information in different databases with many companies and organizations,” he says. “I wanted to change how that information was used.”
The Bixs data exchange is up and running. Anyone can create an account, sell the data they have and buy other information. Lau says that economic incentive is the key. “The question for producers was always, ‘Why would I spend more time sitting in front of a computer when I’d rather be doing something else on my farm?’” he says. “Collaboration without the economic side is just a social club.” He says Bixs is stimulating creativity throughout the value chain. For instance, McDonalds is onboard as it tries to develop a sustainable beef program. “McDonalds picked Canada for its pilot in part because of Bixs, the only system in the world that allows it to do what it wants for the value chain.”
Lau has been talking to partners in China, Mexico, the Philippines and elsewhere about Bixs and the fact that they might not have to close their border to Canadian beef if there’s another BSE-type incident. “The creative stimulation is happening, and that’s what we really wanted,” he says. “Instead of it being a burden to producers and the rest of the value chain, we’re hoping it can be a business opportunity.”