Chicken CCTV: Tech solution for poultry problems

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University of Southern Queensland (USQ) mechatronic engineer Dr Cheryl McCarthy is researching a new way to detect chicken welfare using machine vision, a camera technology with artificial intelligence akin to face recognition.

The research is the first of its kind in Australia, and has been the subject of a two year project funded, to date, by AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program.

Chicken sheds are typically inspected three times per day and rely on the human eye, whereas Dr McCarthy’s system deploys continual on-board image analysis to provide minute-by-minute alerts.

“The cameras observe the daily behavioural patterns of the chickens, picking up changes indicative of underlying health issues,” said Dr McCarthy.

“The camera technology’s artificial intelligence spots subtle patterns in behaviours – are the chickens sitting more often? Grouping together? Not eating as much?

“The benefits include increased productivity via early interventions and better animal welfare, and as the cameras are low-cost, the technology is well-suited to on-farm use,” said Dr McCarthy.

AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Advisory Panel Chair and grower Guy Hebblewhite added that the technology could be a game-changer in improving chicken welfare issues, productivity and forecasting for the supply chain.

“This data can be used in the diagnosis of temperature stress or foot conditions like footpad dermatitis.”

The software has wide-reaching possibilities, with investigations also underway to apply it to chicken weight estimation and in a free-range setting using drone technology.

“There is currently no system evaluated in Australia for chicken shed monitoring. Practically on farm this technology will allow growers to monitor flocks around the clock. In addition welfare parameters, growers will also be able to estimate the weight of their chickens throughout the shed and identify if they are on target or not. This information could then be provided to processors to assist in forecasting,” said Mr Hebblewhite.

This research follows Dr McCarthy’s previous research in remote monitoring using smart cameras to perform tasks like cattle condition scoring, weed spot spraying and crop growth monitoring.

This article was first published by the University of Southern Queensland.

Listen to Dr McCarthy’s recent interview on ABC Southern Queensland.

Read more about AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program agrifutures.com.au/chicken-meat

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