This use case intends to improve the performance of poultry production chain processes through IoT driven technologies. The focus lies mainly on the growth of poultry to achieve a desired and accurate target weight with respect to animal welfare. This starts with an adequate environment in which the birds feel comfortable, as well as good-quality feed and water. In this use case IoT technology is applied at three critical points in the poultry chain: at the farm, during transport and in the slaughterhouse. Ultimately, all collected data is visualised on a central cloud-based platform to provide daily insights and early warnings to farmers.
Animal health’s effects on supply chain
This use case dedicates its research to improve the poultry production, logistics and processing processes, necessary to position the European poultry meat sector on the competitive world market. Innovation plays an important role in achieving this.
Therefore, Elena Garcia, researcher at IK4-Tekniker and Use Case Coordinator, and her team from Evonik Porphyrio, SADA p.a SA and Exafan leverage IoT driven technologies, focusing mainly on controlling the growing process of the birds, reducing mortality, and improving their physical condition and welfare. To achieve the goal of efficient growth while respecting animal welfare, the researchers deployed their solution on four broiler farms in Spain. Through sensor networks and improved sensor technologies, online information of critical parameters in the poultry growing process as well as during logistics and at the slaughtering plant are collected.
Three critical points define the efficiency and product quality of poultry meat. In each step, IoT technology linkages between these steps add significant value. Firstly, the farm level: monitor and combine environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, CO2, ammonia and luminosity alongside the birds’ feed and water consumption. These are crucial parameters which determine the healthy and efficient growth of poultry. Achieving a sustainable as well as uniform target weight of the birds is important for the processing in the slaughterhouse and even more for the profitability of the farm. The use case team measures that through the deployment of Exafan’s dynamic scales. Secondly, the logistics: monitor and optimise broiler handling and transport conditions to reduce stress factors like injuries to avoid any unnecessary discomfort of the birds. Thirdly, the processing plant: optimise slaughtering and improve traceability to increase product quality and consumer trust.
Bird mortality at farm
Animal welfare/class A birds
Broiler deaths during the production phase and transport are incidences which must be avoided at all costs. The solution of the use case includes better monitoring of the ambient parameters and early warning systems, which lowers the birds’ mortality and increases animal welfare. Besides the economic benefits, improving the animals’ physical condition and the indirect economic impact coming with that quickly leads to high gains for the farmer. The IoT devices placed at the critical points of the value chain show that improved animal health also impacts the meat quality positively. The added efficiency of all three stages under the use case, has provided with a 20% increase of class A birds. Average weight went up by 10%, feed waste down by another 10%, and the use of antibiotics went down a promising 15%. Even though these impressive results prove the importance of IoT-based solutions for agricultural challenges, more can be achieved if all stakeholders are taken into consideration as an important variable in this equation.
Obstacles regarding functionalities
During the project phase, the use case team learnt how crucial it is that the end-users are trained and supported in order to harness the potential of the innovation they are using. A dashboard or software can only show its entire benefits if all the functionalities are used correctly.
Concretely, Evonik Porphyrio worked on a system for the automatic opening and closing of the units by using the available incoming data. However, the research and development of this feature proved that new functionalities require end-user training along with continuous software improvements. Therefore, Evonik Porphyrio started a support period during which the end-users were trained on the functionalities of the Porphyrio®dashboard and on its correct use. Furthermore, their assistance helped to clean up the data collected at farm level. With all this new and improved data flooding in, there are new challenges in receiving and processing data in an organised way, which allows for easier data analysis.
To give you a better idea of the impact magnitude tiny mistakes can have: after the release of the dashboard one end-user did not open and close the units properly. This caused a wrong visualisation and incorrect data being gathered. Because of this, the system stopped to run the algorithms behind the performance prediction and the early warning system. When the Evonik Porphyrio team noticed this, the end-user was instantly contacted, trained and supported. Moreover, Evonik Porphyrio took care of cleaning up the incorrect historical flocks in the system. This allowed the end-user to correctly visualise the performance parameters for both the active as well as the historical flocks, and to take the advantage of the algorithms developed on the platform. Similar activities have thus been carried out with the integrators for the IK4-Tekniker Puma Poultry Manager. This helped the use case team to proactively avoid such incidences during the project period.
Bird mortality during transport
Another important aspect of innovation, however, is the implemented hardware. The same rules apply: any hardware included in a system can only contribute to the functionality of the whole system if it fulfils the intended purpose. During one of their regular farm visits or end-user support meetings, the Exafan technical team realised that the chickens were able to rotate the circular plate of the dynamic scales. Hence, Exafan’s mechanical R&D engineers had to make some modifications in order to solve this issue immediately. Fortunately, after the design modification the problem never occurred again. Charging the reusable batteries of the dynamic scales appeared to be another bottleneck the use case team could not anticipate. Initially, it was intended that the farmers would charge the batteries of the dynamic scales when needed. The end-users, however, did not entirely adhere to this requirement so technicians had to take care of that during their farm visits. Although it seems like a small thing, these new scales are wireless, battery-powered and can easily be moved around the farm. Moving from static to battery-powered scales increases efficiency quite a bit, and contributes to reaching the end goals of the use case. These examples indicate the importance of end-user collaboration as a determining factor of successful technology implementation.
Based on those insights, the use case team enforced their communication of functionalities, dissemination of results and scale-up trainings. The aim was to maximise the impact in terms of accelerating the market uptake by reaching the widest possible group of stakeholders spanning across the whole agri-food value chain from farmers to citizens. As part of this task, the use case team prepared detailed communication material and guidelines, distributed during these demonstration activities. Lastly, the researchers focused on a more technical dissemination by publications or the presence at conferences and similar events, attracting companies interested in the large-scale industrialisation and commercialisation of the innovative products. In combination with their continued research and development, it leads to even less labour as well as production effort and further reduces the environmental impact of poultry farming. Ultimately, all of this alleviates the pressure on the farmer and the animals itself.
Achievements, products & services
IoT driven technologies at the different stages of the chain
Sensors and dashboards for the farm, logistics and processing plant
Broiler dynamic weighing scales and indoor air quality measurements
Transport sensors monitoring conditions to maintain broiler welfare
Monitoring loading processes through smart watches