A local company operates a smart farm concept intended both to ensure good productivity but also to give good living conditions to the animals, according to the designers. However, we remain in an intensive farming system, contested by the defenders of organic farming.
“We are on a smart farm. It is equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, sensors and microphones, and this is not part of the security system: European researchers have developed these devices to improve the living conditions of the animals, and the productivity of the farm. explains Julián López Gómez, Euronews special correspondent whose article was published on May 9, 2016.
This farm is located in Kessel, a small village in the Netherlands, in the province of Limburg. The facility with no less than 20,000 hens is operated by Fancom, a world leader in I-farming, in particular for the development of IT and automation systems for the intensive livestock sector.
The hens are placed under close surveillance here through multiple cameras and microphones intended to follow their movement. The system is also able to send alerts to the breeder in the event of behavior considered abnormal, a sort of BigBrother of the hens.
Farmer Twan Colberts explains how this equipment can improve output while caring for animals:
“The cameras and microphones help me know in real time if the animals are stressed and for what reasons. I can then find effective solutions more quickly, without necessarily being inside the hen house all the time. »
Luc Rooijakkers, project manager at Fancom, explains a real-time situation, watching one of his monitors:
“If a feeder line blocked, you would see all the hens move from that feeder line to another. Now, we see that they move very quickly, but we don’t know why. But maybe it’s because we’re very close to the barn door and the sound of our voices comes to them and scares them. »
Scientists from the University of Leuven (Belgium) succeeded in developing the algorithms as well as the systems used, having the ability to understand the reasons for the unusual behavior of animals. The researchers indicate that the success rate of such technology is 95%.
“The placement of poultry in the poultry house varies according to factors such as climate, temperature, soil quality. We know what levels need to be maintained on a farm so that when combined they can have an effect on animal behavior. This means that we can make predictions and distinguish, with enough finesse, the real difficulties of the poultry on the farm » explains Alberto Pena Fernandez, biologist at the Belgian university.
Fancom also has solutions for raising pigs. In this case, the system is designed to quickly identify, in the stables, pigs who would cough in a worrying way, an optimized way to fight against the spread of respiratory diseases.
“I usually only have ten minutes to check a barn. That’s 2 or 3 seconds per animal. But with this system, which identifies if an animal is coughing in a worrying way, their health status is monitored seven days a week and 24 hours a day. I can therefore be more responsive and, possibly, limit the spread of a disease” says John Verhoijsen, pig farmer.
Researchers from the University of Leuven explain the next steps to be taken in the future, the starting point of which is located in the twenty or so experimental farms and six precision farms established in the Netherlands:
“One of the next steps will be to install the Internet on all European farms. We are still far from it. The farmer of the future will not only sell meat or animals, but data. This will be new information for everyone along the food chain to consumers.” says Daniel Berkmans of the University of Louvain.
Sources and photo credits: Euronews – Fancom