A groundbreaking animal growth and welfare monitoring, detection and notification system has been awarded the annual AgriFutures Research Award for 2023.
Developed by Dr Cheryl McCarthy, a mechatronics engineer at the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Agriculture Engineering, the Novel Detection of Chicken Welfare Using Machine Vision project will see the development of a proof-of-concept system for monitoring chickens and their behaviour in chicken sheds. The system will seek to provide instant remote notifications to the shed supervisor to indicate when conditions could be affecting flock welfare.
Dr McCarthy said the award recognised how important ongoing research is for improving efficiencies in the chicken meat industry.
“I am very excited to receive this award for research to develop new machine vision technologies for monitoring chicken flocks,” Dr McCarthy said.
“Our innovative project aims to revolutionise the chicken meat industry. Improved and continual monitoring of housed chickens, with real-time analysis and notifications, will enable optimal and efficient animal management.
“Through using remote monitoring and image analysis, producers will be able to monitor animal weight and quickly identify behaviours such as grouping, and implement management techniques to reduce the impact of those behaviours resulting in healthier and more productive flocks.
“This automated system not only reduces any potential stress placed on the animal, but it would also save time and provide more frequent, accurate data for the farmer.”
As Dr McCarthy explains, the next step is developing the technology for commercial use.
“We now want to bolster this technology to offer an ‘off the shelf’ system that can be installed in sheds across Australia and I am working with the chicken meat industry through AgriFutures and a commercial partner to conduct extended field trials.
“We believe it’s feasible that this technology could be up and running on poultry farms within two years, which gives us a fantastic story to share, demonstrating that animal welfare is front and centre.
“The award also provides funding for me to participate in capacity-building activities, and I have selected to attend an entrepreneurial congress and creative leadership thinking workshop to enhance my skills in research and business collaboration.”
DryRice research runner up
Associate Professor Jaquie Mitchell from the University of Queensland was awarded the 2023 AgriFutures Research Award runner-up for her project Traits of Importance for Aerobic ‘DryRice’ Varieties for the Riverina Region, which focused on enhancing rice genotypes and ensuring sustainable development in the rice industry.
“In southern NSW, we need rice varieties adapted to aerobic growing conditions to conserve water and tackle rising irrigation costs,” Dr Mitchell said.
“Our pre-breeding project developed screening methods and linked genetics to traits, maximising productivity of rice in a reduced water input system while ensuring cold tolerance in varieties.”
“Our aim was to combine physiology with genomics to gain an understanding of the genetic basis for traits contributing to adaptation to aerobic conditions.
“Assuming an underlying cold tolerance in combination with appropriate agronomy, this will lead to opportunities for commercial aerobic production and improvement in water productivity at the farm level.
“To have our research recognised as part of the AgriFutures Research Awards is validation for all the hard work we have put in to get to this point, but also for the importance of ongoing research in driving sustainable outcomes for the future of Australian agriculture.”
Now in their second year, the annual AgriFutures Research Awards seek to acknowledge excellence in research and recognise the valuable contribution researchers have made towards the advancement of Australian agriculture.
AgriFutures Australia Acting General Manager – Levied and Emerging Industries, Amanda Olthof, said AgriFutures are proud to recognise the outstanding efforts of researchers like Dr McCarthy and Associate Professor Mitchell.
“Their dedication and expertise will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the industry, and we look forward to supporting them as they continue to drive positive change and innovation in Australian agriculture,” Ms Olthof said.
“The winners were invited to attend the prestigious AgriFutures Australia Summit event where they were presented with their award, and also have the opportunity to present their research at AgriFutures evokeAG. event in Perth early next year, providing a platform to connect and collaborate with mentors, farmers and investors from the agrifood innovation community.”
To find more information on the winning projects please visit: https://agrifutures.com.au/our-industries/