A paradigm shift in biosecurity is needed to improve worker compliance and prevent outbreaks of avian influenza and other poultry diseases.

“Here’s the reality. We have a compliance issue because we have a human nature issue,” Dr. Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, a professor at the Université de Montréal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, said. “If we can get away with something, we will."

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) devastated commercial poultry flocks in 2022 despite substantial infrastructure investments on farm. At the 2022 Poultry Tech Summit, Vaillancourt said this suggests on farm compliance with the biosecurity programs in place need major improvements.

Tools to improve compliance 

The basic principles of biosecurity – reduce the number of contaminants, separate clean from dirty and communicate about the plan to control HPAI and disease outbreaks – haven't changed for hundreds, or even thousands, of years.

“Communication is an integral part – whether it’s on farm, at the company level or even at the regional level – we need to get into a sharing strategy to react quicker, to prevent better and so we can intervene correctly,” he said.

New technologies, like sensors, could make it easier for workers to remember and comply with each step of the biosecurity program on the poultry farm. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems can monitor boot and hand sanitization compliance when entering and exiting barns.

When implementing these tools, it’s important to think carefully about how they are used. Employee buy in, training and real-time feedback are crucial for success. Incentives for executing the correct steps in a biosecurity program definitely help, as well.

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In addition, other innovations such as robots automate tasks in the poultry house. By picking up floor eggs, monitoring poultry welfare, managing litter collection and performing other simple and repetitive tasks, these technologies can replace humans.

With fewer people in the poultry house, there are fewer sources of contamination and less room for human error when it comes to biosecurity.

To learn more about HPAI cases in commercial poultry flocks in the United States and Canada, see an interactive map on WATTPoultry.com. 

Read our ongoing coverage of the global avian influenza outbreak.

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The Poultry Tech Summit is the only event of its kind that connects researchers and entrepreneurs with poultry sector technology experts, financiers, venture capitalists and producers looking for new projects and investments to fund. Since its 2018 inception, this unique conference has facilitated and fast-tracked many pioneering ideas into adoption for the benefit of the poultry supply chain.

Details on the 2023 Poultry Tech Summit will be released in Spring 2023.