Comment: How the internet of things could revolutionise poultry farming

By Alan Beynon, St David’s Poultry vets

The adoption of IoT technology is becoming a hot topic within the poultry industry and slowly the launch of innovative solutions are reflecting this. As vets, we have been involved with a company called PrognostiX who have created one of the first applications in agriculture where cost effective wireless sensors are capturing in real time critical parameters to assess animal health, welfare and performance. This application of IoT is a quantum leap for the industry and an immensely powerful tool that transforms how vets work with farmers.

Seeing the sensors in operation, it isn’t hard to see why companies should be investing into new technologies to improve efficiencies. The broiler solution is capable of monitoring the temperature and humidity through numerous sensors placed in the house at chick level to create a heat and humidity map. This can highlight areas where the birds are crowding and ventilation issues as they occur. Other sensors have been developed can measure water intake, water temperature, water tank levels, ammonia concentration, carbon dioxide concentration, light levels, air speed, and animal weight. 

As vets, we have been fascinated by data sets collected from the sensors placed on our farms. One case investigated water flow where we visually divided the floor space into sectors. Each sector had a water meter allowing us to look in real time how much water was consumed on each water line. We were amazed to see that the water intakes were lowest at the outside walls of the house with an increase to over 40% in the centre line of the house.

We discussed the possible effect of water pressure, the light from the windows, the chick placement techniques, the location of the drinkers in the house and even how the house was walked to try to understand why this might be so. We also investigated the effect of this on weight gain across a house, feed intake and evenness of birds and began to make changes that led to an improvement in variation in weights as well as performance.

If you cannot measure something, you cannot make changes to improve health, welfare and performance on a farm. With increasing pressure within agriculture to reduce antibiotic usage it has become obvious to our veterinary business that we need to understand what factors are causing any disease on a farm. Being able to use that information to predict and prevent disease is critical and to really understand performance challenges to facilitate this reduction.

 

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