Research into meat chickens and rice production has been recognised by research and development corporation AgriFutures
An automated system for monitoring farmed chickens has won the AgriFutures Research Award 2023, with its developer now exploring ways to bring it to the market.
Dr Cheryl McCarthy, a mechatronics engineer at the University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Agriculture Engineering, won the award for her Novel Detection of Chicken Welfare Using Machine Vision project.
The project aims to develop a proof-of-concept system for monitoring chickens and their behaviour in chicken sheds, providing instant remote notifications to the shed supervisor when conditions could be affecting flock welfare.
McCarthy says the automated system will revolutionise the chicken meat industry – reducing animal stress and providing more accurate data for the farmer.
“Improved and continual monitoring of housed chickens, with real-time analysis and notifications, will enable optimal and efficient animal management,” she says.
“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.
McCarthy is now working with AgriFutures and a commercial partner to conduct extended field trials, with the aim of developing an ‘off the shelf’ system that can be installed in sheds across Australia.
“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,” she says.
University of Queensland associate professor Jaquie Mitchell was runner-up for the award, recognised for her work on enhancing rice genotypes and ensuring sustainable development in the rice industry in New South Wales’ Riverina region.
“In southern NSW, we need rice varieties adapted to aerobic growing conditions to conserve water and tackle rising irrigation costs,” she says.
“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.”
“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.”