New funding has been awarded to Dr Theo Demmers (PI) and Associate Professor Siobhan Abeyesinghe by Innovate UK for the project Visual Monitoring of Broiler Behaviour, Health and Welfare using Artificial Intelligent Image Machine Learning.
This feasibility study aims to develop a monitoring system for specific behaviours observed in broiler flocks to improve management techniques, speed of disease diagnoses and reduce medication usage. The environment required for optimum chicken growth is tightly controlled. Temperature, humidity, CO2, air pressure, water and feed consumption are measured and managed constantly throughout the day. Small changes in these environmental elements cause significant changes to the chickens' state of wellbeing including stress. Stress is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity. Observations of behaviours are a proven indicator of animal health and welfare, both positive and negative. Chickens can suffer from a myriad of illnesses and ailments. These almost always display some sort of behavioural change, often reduced movement and change of positioning in the house. Currently, farmers use environmental measures and visual observation to see any change in the birds. This relies on quality observations from the stockman to make changes in management or call for veterinary intervention. Reliance on human intervention is not a guaranteed method of effective management though. Using camera systems and AI technology to analyse the images, selected broiler behaviours being displayed by how many birds at what time of day and in what conditions will be identified to assess overall wellbeing.
This project will be a collaboration involving Hudson & Sanders Ltd (t/a Applied Poultry), V7 Ltd and the RVC.