A UK initiative that started in 2009 to help pig farmers improve their performance, using developments in IT and monitoring expertise, has come to fruition with the simultaneous launch of two major projects with a total funding of £459,000 (US$725,404).

The first, called PIVIT Yorkshire (Pig Improvement via Information Technology), involves 12 production sites in Yorkshire and is 50 percent funded by the UK government and the European Union through the Rural Enterprise Investment Programme. The rest of the funding is being provided by the producers taking part in the projects.

Supported by the British Pig Executive, National Pig Association and Wm Morrison Supermarkets and managed by Reading-based farm energy specialists, Farmex Ltd., the aim is to find out how producers and stock-people can gain commercial advantage from remote monitoring of production sites.
The farms and farming organizations involved are Yorkwold Pigpro, Driffield; J C Lister Farms Ltd., Boroughbridge; T A & J B Stephenson, York; Middlecave Ltd., Richmond; and Melrose Pigs Ltd., York. The project is scheduled to take place over a two-year period with quarterly reports to a management committee. “The objective is to focus on the people involved and find out how commercial advantage can be routinely gained from remote monitoring of production sites using existing tools and knowledge,” said Farmex managing director Hugh Crabtree. “This will be achieved by a combination of training, knowledge transfer and technical support.”

The second project under the Technology Strategy Board — Sustainable Protein Production program, also managed by Farmex, aims, over a three-year period, to develop new IT tools to automate data analysis and simplify access to it. This is partly sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board with the remaining funding coming from consortium partners Farmex Ltd.; Dicam Technology Ltd. of Halesworth, Suffolk; and ARM Buildings Ltd., Rugeley, Staffordshire. Newcastle University will provide data analysis through its industrial statistics research unit, while ARM Buildings will provide a stream of data from practical pig units and its environment specialist Tim Miller will act as on-farm coordinator.

Over the past 10 years, the Reading company has developed sophisticated and world-leading control and monitoring systems for piggeries and crop stores. Sensors are used to monitor vital factors, such as temperature, electricity, water and feed usage, and can transmit information to a farm’s computer for analysis on a 24-hour basis. This provides producers with advanced warning if something is going wrong, as well as helps predict impending disease issues and save energy.

“Modern IT systems offer great potential to benefit animal performance and welfare by real-time data collection, timely alerts of day-to-day husbandry problems and focused reports to aid more strategic management decisions," said Sandra Edwards, professor of agriculture at Newcastle University and a member of the PIVIT Initiative team. "These two projects will allow practical systems to be further developed and their value to the pig farmer to be clearly demonstrated.”