Taking the mystery out of the microbiome with AI

02-01-2023 | |
Our custom AI platform allows us to operate at a scale and speed that is not possible with competing technologies. Photo: Cargill
Our custom AI platform allows us to operate at a scale and speed that is not possible with competing technologies. Photo: Cargill

A simple, non-invasive analysis tool from Cargill, Galleon, allows producers to determine the gut microbiome health of their broiler flock.

Part of the Gut Health 2022 Special

The gut microbiome is an important driver in determining the health and performance of the host, whether this host is animal or human. It is made up of thousands of organisms, or microbiota, most of them being bacteria. The combinations of these organisms result in different outcomes, making it very complex to understand. Variations can be seen within and between flocks to varying degrees, and therefore farms with the same inputs and systems can have different results.

The gut microbiome for each flock plays a crucial role in the birds’ physiology and in determining their performance. However, interpreting this intricate data to convert it into actions on the farm can be overwhelming – if not impossible – for individual poultry producers.

The benefits of accessing and leveraging this kind of data can be enormous, and this is where Cargill, through the development of this tool, has been able to make a difference. This service is a tool to help producers to use detailed and accurate information about the farm’s unique gut microbiome profile and apply it to practical farm management and nutritional practices. It meets the challenges of creating a link between microbiome composition, bird and flock performance and interventions. Designed for commercial routine use, microbiome intelligence analytical tool takes advantage of our microbial analysis database, which has been accumulating microbiota data from broilers for more than 10 years and continues to grow every day. Therefore, users have access to one of the world’s largest microbiome databases.

Today we have more than 25,000 samples that have built up our database.This data gives us a greater understanding of the microbiome’s connection to performance and sets profiles to compare alongside each new flock’s microbial signature.

Producers and their advisers can use this information, which is specific to their flock, to assess health, resilience to disease, liveability, and overall performance. The information can also be used to determine the effect of changes in diet or management.

Holistic approach of the microbiome analysis tool.
Holistic approach of the microbiome analysis tool.

Microbiome Intelligence Service

The platform links automated laboratory analysis that focuses on a list of microbial biomarkers short-listed along the years and a proprietary intelligence tool. This tool combines powerful statistical designs with advanced artificial intelligence models to extract the most important relationships that can be convert into insights for practical application. The validation of this platform includes more than 100 events (datasets) between research trials and field exercises across a range of countries and farm conditions.

The service involves taking a faecal sample from birds of the flock (swabs) and sending them to the lab for DNA analysis. Individual bird variation is minimised by sampling a large number of birds, typically 24 per comparison. This is facilitated by the non-invasive procedure which does not require killing birds.

This may seem complex, but easy-to- use collection kits to use at farms have been developed. The only thing that the producer does is collect and ship the samples back.

Collected samples can be stored at ambient temperature in sterile tubes and pose no biosecurity risk as all microorganisms die in the preservation solution.

After lab and data analysis, results are evaluated and the implications on performance are discussed with the producer. The results and the microbiome biomarker composition are summarised in a report, which provides guidelines for specific interventions supported by our technical poultry team.

Practical approach

Galleon has been designed to complement Cargill’s extensive research and development and its global knowledge, while bringing practical solutions right to the farm’s gate.

The sampling kits and the procedure is simple; in contrast to other microbiome analysis services that require ‘sample’ birds to be killed.

An additional benefit of the service is its application across multiple scenarios such as being agnostic of feed ingredients, additives, production system or health programme, as opposed to it being connected to prove efficacy of specific feed additives or other products.

Gut health is mostly determined by the microbiome, and this has a fundamental link to flock performance. Therefore, the gut microbiome has a significant impact on the flock’s performance.
Galleon creates a link between microbiome composition, performance and interventions so it can be an integral part of flock performance improvements. Broiler producers no longer have to trust anecdotal evidence. Instead, they can improve the accuracy of their decision-making by using this service to assess and interpret gut microbiome composition. Cargill continues to improve and develop this and other tools to expand such services to other species and sectors for the benefit of animal production and health.

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