Seeds database will help genetic engineers

A Waikato software company is offering an online service which will help subscribers track trials of genetically modified plants throughout the world.

A Waikato software company is offering an online service which will help subscribers track trials of genetically modified plants throughout the world.

Cambridge-based developer Xenacom is about to trial its web-based hosted database service, Xen-Agri, with more than 30 international seed companies.

This month seed growers from New Zealand, Australia, the US, Holland, Spain, Argentina, South Africa and Russia will take part in a free test-run of Xen-Agri, an Oracle-based database and application that helps seed breeders, distributors, resellers and growers monitor the performance of new strains and varieties. Xenacom company director Gavin McEwen says the hosted service can also be used to track where genetically modified seeds are being trialled.

The reporting modules of the system are now web-based so that users anywhere in the world can access the Xen-Agri database via a browser.

The seed companies signed up for the trial when Xenacom attended a seed growing conference in South Africa earlier this year. The aim is to charge customers a monthly fee once the pilot ends.

Gavin McEwen says the system records data about the development of new varieties and offers the industry the opportunity to increase profitability and market share by reducing the product development lifecycle.

A prototype is being used in-house by Australian seed distributor Lefroy Valley Group.

Lefroy product development manager Geoff Heard says the fast accumulation of data from trial sites back to a central database has allowed the Lefroy product development team to make decisions on new varieties more quickly and therefore maintain a competitive edge. By reporting summarised trial data and forecasting product requirements back to breeding partners, the Xen-Agri system helped reduce the development cycle by 50% in some cases, he says.

Originally a standalone database written in Microsoft Access, Xen-Agri was ported to the Oracle platform using Oracle Forms 6i. Xenacom worked with Oracle software specialists Theta Systems on the six-month rewrite.

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