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6 consortiums get financial support to enhance bird welfare

6 leading global poultry welfare consortiums have been given funding to develop automated monitoring tools that precisely assess broiler chicken welfare.

The$ 2m funding has come from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture and McDonalds and represents the first phase of grant support, with more funding available in the next phase for initiatives that will enhance welfare and improve efficiency for producers.

These technologies have huge potential to improve the welfare of chickens in our supply chain all over the world. We believe the phase 1 winners to be industry leading, and we are excited to see the evolution of their research.” – Keith Kenny, McDonald’s vice president of sustainability.

The 6 Sensors, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technologies (SMART) phase 1 winners saw off competition from 34 other entries, with the funding enabling them to develop and test technologies.

Ingrid de Jong with Wageningen University and Research and collaborators Utrecht University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Virginia Tech worked on an affordable camera-based system and artificial intelligence that automatically records broiler chicken behaviour on-farm. Photo: Koos Groenewold
Ingrid de Jong with Wageningen University and Research and collaborators Utrecht University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Virginia Tech worked on an affordable camera-based system and artificial intelligence that automatically records broiler chicken behaviour on-farm. Photo: Koos Groenewold

The winners are:

  1. Marian Dawkins with the University of Oxford, UK, in partnership with Munters and Tyson Foods ($ 232,063) to test the ability of a novel camera/computer system called OpticFlock to monitor broiler chicken welfare. Cameras inside chicken houses monitor bird behaviour and deliver a “verdict” every 15 minutes to alert producers of early signs of welfare issues, such as foot pad lesions and lameness.
  2. Niamh O’Connell with Queen’s University, Belfast, in partnership with Moy Park ($ 310,738) to develop a vision based system that leverages existing human crowd surveillance algorithms and applies them to the tracking and behaviour analysis of broiler chickens. This will enable researchers to monitor large numbers of birds and track individual activity patterns, including welfare indicators such as gait scores and feather cleanliness.
  3. Ingrid de Jong with Wageningen University and Research and collaborators Utrecht University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Virginia Tech ($ 500,000) with additional support from Plukon Food Group, CLK GmbH and Utrecht to use an affordable camera-based system and artificial intelligence that automatically records broiler chicken behaviour on-farm. The 2D and 3D cameras will continuously monitor broilers’ ability to walk, interact with each other and the environment and other natural behaviours.
  4. Lasse Lorenzen with Scio+, Big Dutchman AG and SKOV A/S with collaborators KU Leuven, Perdue University and Aarhus University ($ 499,648) with additional financial support from Scio+ to use camera technology and advanced image analysis to continuously monitor commercial broiler flocks, map welfare assessments and estimate walking ability.
  5. Hao Gan with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, in partnership with Mississippi State University and USDA-ARS and BioRics NV ($ 350,000) wit additional finance from Peco Foods to use multi-angle range cameras to monitor commercial broilers and both individual and flock level and measure walking ability and level of activity.
  6. Tom Darbonne and Dr Brandon Caroll with AudioT ($ 200,000) with additional support from Tyson Foods and Fieldale Farms to develop audio-based monitoring tools created on bird vocalisations that alert farmers to broiler welfare and behaviour. This work builds on ten years of research at Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Agricultural Technology Research Programme and will result in a scalable, low-cost sensor and analytics package complimentary to video-based systems.