Artificial intelligence tool promising for poultry sector

A system under development that constantly monitors poultry’s behavior and applies appropriate responses could make farms more efficient and birds more productive.

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Tracking and understanding bird behavior in real time could result in less-stressed birds and happier producers. Suresh Neethirajan
Tracking and understanding bird behavior in real time could result in less-stressed birds and happier producers. Suresh Neethirajan

An artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm-based video surveillance system for use in poultry houses has been developed by Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and its developers believe it to be far superior to conventional systems.

With no need for stock keepers to enter the poultry house and stress birds, the system, yet to be made commercially available, combines the humane approach video surveillance with smart sensing technologies and has been named ChickTrack.

ChickTrack’s AI algorithm can easily identify individual birds in a flock using subtle differences between them, something a stockperson would find almost impossible. Birds can even be tracked when in poorly lit areas of the house or out of the camera's field of view. Individual birds are assigned a special code and number and the same number stays with a bird whether it is within sight of the camera or beyond its field of vision.

This precise identification capability can deliver accurate counting without duplication, even when flocks are large and birds are moving about.

Early warning

With this constant monitoring, issues in any part of the flock, including reduced feed intake, feather pecking, incorrect light intensity or feed availability can be swiftly identified, even at individual bird level, allowing stock keepers to act before they escalate. Erratic behavior can be predicted.

Body temperature can also be monitored via thermal imaging and bird movements within the house can be tracked and erratic behavior predicted.

ChicTrack’s mapping component helps to chart locomotion, trajectory and gait patterns, and predicts the paths that chickens may make as they walk about, allowing farmers to detect issues in real time.

Planning boost

Mapping individual chicken activity and movement provides producers with an improved ability to plan floor space, perhaps the greatest benefit of the system, its developers believe, given that overcrowding continues to cause stress for birds and farmers alike.

The technology allows chickens reactions to environmental changes to be studied without direct human intervention. Changes in, for example, house temperature or feeding intervals, and how these influence movement and stress can easily be observed. Studies have revealed that certain behaviors are indicative of stress, for example, when a bird moves from the center to the side of the house.

Bringing artificial intelligence into the poultry house should enable farmers to achieve optimal rearing conditions through studying bird movements in response to emotional mental stimuli, not only improving bird welfare but also raising farm efficiency.

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