EUROTIER: Biology Meets Technology15 November 2012
GERMANY - EuroTier has made a number of innovation awards in the area of livestock farming but what is the origin of such new innovation trajectories? The EU Biobusiness Project explains its work on lameness in cows, aggressive behaviour in pigs and egg incubation.
The 'fellows' in the Biobusiness Project, funded by the European Union, can tell you the story of how biologists are made familiar with modern technology in order to bring new farming techniques to the farmers.
'Smart farming' or 'Precision Livestock Farming' (PLF), as this is called, is based upon using monitoring systems (e.g. through image and sound analysis techniques) to follow up better the animal's status and detect diseases at an early stage. By automating the process, the farmer is able to receive real-time information on his livestock.
This information is mostly valuable for him to manage and optimise his animal production in an accurate and pro-active way.
It is important to underline that 'smart farming' does not have the intention to make robots of the farmer's animals. On the contrary, it allows the animals to directly report to the farmer by transferring information via sensor technology. So, one can say that the most accurate information comes from the animal itself. By using this new technology in the stable, the farmer will be able to cope with larger stocks of animals whilst taking better care of the animal's individual health and welfare.
In the EU Biobusiness Project, academics and industry are working closely together to find ways to detect lameness in cows, monitor the aggressive behaviour amongst pigs or improve the incubation and hatching conditions in hatcheries. Thanks to the research work done in this project, new products are being developed such as, for example, an automatic camera-based monitor for dairy cows to improve early detection of lameness or for pigs, a tool capable of responding to the identified aggressive pigs behaviour.
Why will such tools become indispensable in future farming? With the growing number of countries/populations having access to meat, the world's demand for animal products will continue to increase in the next decades. Consequently, there is an urgent need for better and safer production methods which allow for intensive farming whilst reducing the risks of animal illnesses. And last but not least, in order to respect the animal's health and welfare and meet the environmental regulations, modern farming requires more innovative production methods.
Biobusiness is a four-year EU project in which 10 partners from the academic world and the industry work together to train young researchers in the discipline of behaviour monitoring, disease detection & monitoring, and process monitoring & management in livestock production, techniques that particularly focus on animal welfare enhancement and health management.