FFAR, McDonald’s announce Phase 1 SMART Broiler winners

The SMART Broiler program, a research initiative designed to aid the development of automated monitoring tools to assess broiler welfare, announced six Phase 1 winners this week. The winners received more than $2 million in grants and technical support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and McDonald’s.

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David Tadevosian I shutterstock.com
David Tadevosian I shutterstock.com

The SMART Broiler program, a research initiative designed to aid the development of automated monitoring tools to assess broiler welfare, announced six Phase 1 winners this week. The winners received more than $2 million in grants and technical support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and McDonald’s.

Moving from subjective to objective

Today, many farms rely on manual observation and subjective scoring methods to assess broiler welfare. The SMART Broiler program leads the search for automated Sensors, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technologies (SMART) that could enhance bird welfare and improve efficiencies for producers.

“We've identified six research participants that we feel really closely aligned with the goals that we were trying to achieve,” W. Banks Baker, Manager Animal Welfare and Agriculture, McDonald’s, explained. “McDonald’s has had a decades-long commitment to health and welfare. It’s something that’s been a pillar for our company for a long time. Programs like this really illustrate how committed we are to that.”

The first phase of the program provides funds for the development and testing of new technologies. The six winners are:

  • OpticFlock, a novel camera/computer system that monitors bird behavior to alert producers to early signs of welfare issues such as food pad lesions and lameness. Developed at the University of Oxford in partnership with Munters and Tyson Foods.
  • A vision-based system developed at Queen’s University Belfast that applies existing human crowd surveillance algorithms to the tracking and behavioral analysis of broiler chickens. Moy Park is a partner on this technology.
  • A system involving 2D and 3D cameras to continuous monitor how broilers walk, interact and perform other natural behaviors from Wageningen University & Research and collaborators at Utrecht University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Virginia Tech.
  • Sci+, Big Dutchman AG and SKOV A/S, alongside collaborators at KU Leven, Purdue University and Aarhus University, developed camera technology and advanced image analysis that can continuously monitor commercial broiler flocks, estimate walking ability and map welfare assessments.
  • A multi-angle and multi-range camera system from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture that can monitor commercial broilers at both the individual and the flock level.
  • AudioT, an audio-based monitoring tool that uses bird vocalizations to alert farms to broiler welfare and behavioral issues. This project also received support from Tyson Foods and Fieldale Farms.

Phase II of the SMART Broiler initiative will be announced in late 2021.

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