Innovative farming everywhere you look

Jake Davies Freelance Journalist
Photo: Henk Riswick
Photo: Henk Riswick

Journalists are normally terrible cynics. And for those who report on agricultural affairs, the notion that 9 billion people will need feeding by the year 2050 is so often cited it can become quite wearing.

The ideas beyond this worn-out phrase too often suggest unrestrained intensification; in poultry this means chasing faster growth rates or ever-improving FCR. But in truth the answer could be more nuanced – innovation is driving totally new ways of thinking when it comes to poultry production.

In the past weeks there have been meetings for the feed industry at the European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition, in Britain the local branch of the World Poultry Science Association and in Kentucky Alltech’s famous ONE ideas conference. The combined innovation on show was staggering.

First, the ESPN, where Prof Peter Ferket spoke of work to tailor diets for broilers while they are still in the egg, potentially giving producers a head start in chick development. At the WPSA the Roslin Institute’s Dr Mike McGrew explained how genetic engineering has the potential to save breeds of poultry from extinction or hatch birds without feathers.

Finally, Alltech’s ONE event showcased the best of innovation in food production; from emerging methods for urban horticulture to lighting programmes tailored for the light spectrum that makes chickens most comfortable.

It’s hard to be cynical – or pessimistic – about the future of farming when so much is already shaking up conventional agriculture.