Livestock

Working with farmers, academic institutions, scientists and researchers, at Agri-EPI we explore and deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture. Supporting innovative projects with beef and diary herds, pigs and poultry and more, championing the sector and seeking to improve efficiency, productivity and the welfare of animals in modern farming.

Research to use artificial intelligence to identify sick livestock

The welfare of livestock could be improved thanks to a new research project that will use novel artificial intelligence methods combined with behavioural analytics to provide rapid and reliable insights to animal health for farmers across the UK. The research and commercial feasibility program, co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, will be led by the Quant Foundry (QF) in collaboration with the University of Bristol Vet School and Agri-EPI Centre.

The team headed by Dr Chris Cormack at QF will run a feasibility study with Professor Andrew Dowsey and animal welfare experts, Dr Siobhan Mullan, Dr Suzanne Held and Professor Michael Mendl at the University of Bristol and Agri-EPI Centre at their South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset.

The project aims to provide a new cost-effective solution for farmers and vets to identify illness in livestock providing not only cost savings but also a means to reduce the impact of farming on the environment.

Dr Chris Cormack, Managing Director at the Quant Foundry (www.quantfoundry.com), said: “In conjunction with our research partners, Bristol Veterinary School and Agri-EPI, the study of behavioural analytics in animals will open up a new era in artificial intelligence driven solutions for farmers. We have great hopes that not only can we help farmers provide improved care for their livestock but also help reduce their economic costs and their environmental impact.”

Professor Andrew Dowsey, Chair in Population Health Data Science at Bristol Veterinary School and a specialist in data solutions for health and agriculture, added:

“This collaboration is a fantastic opportunity to translate cutting-edge artificial intelligence approaches to build upon the UK’s high standards in cattle welfare and support farmers in our targets for net-zero emissions.”

Duncan Forbes, Agri-EPI centre’s Head of Dairy said:

“Agri-EPI’s South West Dairy Development Centre is dedicated to the development and evaluation of exciting emerging technologies such as this and we’re looking forward to working with Quant Foundry and Bristol Vet School.”

Throughout the project the collaborative team will be actively seeking partners to help them commercialise and build capability as the project matures, this can range from direct investment or from interested companies looking to complement their existing activities in this upcoming area.

Hackathon inspires solutions for tackling impact of COVID-19

Concepts for a solar powered, zero emission orchard robot and a remote, digital veterinary diagnosis tools which requires no apps or software installation have been announced as the winners of the Agri-EPI Centre agri-tech hackathon. A total of 11 teams took part on the hackathon, which was held to support the development of technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19. The winning teams receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre.

Hackathon team winners

The Hackathon focused on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors:

Horticulture hackathon

The winning team in the horticulture sector is Orcharbot with their concept for a solar powered, zero-emission crop scouting and weeding robot featuring six technology innovations for weed identification and organic removal, fruit surveying and picking. The team members came from University of the West of England, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Antobot.

Judging this section of the hackathon were Rob Wilkinson of Grimme; Ali Capper of the NFU; David Telford of Knowledge Transfer Network and Adam Spate of Bardsley England. They were highly impressed with the ambitious, zero emissions concept.

Veterinary hackathon

The winner of the veterinary hackathon is a team from technology provider FarmVet Systems. Their concept – ‘VetAccess’ – builds on their existing VetIMPRESS secure data management platform. Their idea focuses on enabling farm teams to benefit fully from the technology in the face of challenges created by vets working remotely due to Covid restrictions.

The judges in this category were Jan Van Dijke of Zoetis; Tim Potter of WestPoint Farm Vets (VetPartners); George Paterson of Landmark Systems; and Lucy Mather of the Knowledge Transfer Network. They particularly liked the farmer-focused vision behind the concept.

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director, Lisa Williams, said:

“The level of interest and enthusiasm from all the entrants to our hackathon exceeded all of our expectations and we thank all the competitors and the judges for taking part. The Agri-EPI team is very excited about the coming year, as we work with both winning teams to support the feasibility testing and development of their concepts.

“There were many other strong ideas put forward during the hackathon which show great promise, so we have decided to work with all teams to provide support as they build on their ideas.”

Partners

We thank our challenge partners for their support: Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network, Landmark Systems, Bardsley England, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

 


This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

Agri-tech hackathon seeks solutions to COVID’s impact on farming

Registration now open for an agri-tech Hackathon aimed at developing technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19

Winners will receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre. 

The Hackathon will focus on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Participating teams will be challenged to explore solutions in two areas: the shortage of labour supply for field operations in horticultureand the restrictions on how vets can travel to conduct farm diagnoses and prescription.  

They will have the 12-hour duration of the Hackathon, on 23 and 24 September 2020, to come up with proposed technical solutions within their chosen stream which, if deemed by the judges to have winning market potential, will become the focus of the year-long ‘product launch programme’ delivered by Agri-EPI. 

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director Lisa Williams explained:

“We invite any businesses, organisations and academic institutions with an involvement or interest in agri-tech to take part in what promises to be a really exciting event, with the aim of delivering new products that address some of the serious impacts of Coronavirus on the farming industry. Collaboration is key to innovation and we look forward to working with the participating teams, and the winners, to develop new ideas. 

“The winning teams will have 12 months of access to Agri-EPI’s technical and project management expertise, our world-class research and innovation facilities, testbeds and research assets, and our extensive network, which includes a membership of more than 120 companies across agriculture, technology and the supply chain. 

The Hackathon is supported by the European Horizon 2020 project Smart AgriHubs. The Challenge partners for the veterinary Hackathon are Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network and Landmark Systems. For the horticulture Hackathon, the challenge partners are Bardsley, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

To find out more and register, visit the following website.

Hackathon launch webinar

If you’re a business or academic institution with an interest in agri-tech, join us today (18 August) at 2:00pm to hear more from Agri-EPI Centre’s CEO, Dave Ross, as he goes into more detail about the Hackathon and challenges faced by many in the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Register now at register.gotowebinar.com/register to secure your space!

COVID-19 will drive digital transformation for livestock vets

The COVID-19 crisis is a catalyst for increasing the rate of digital adoption by UK livestock vets, according to Agri-EPI Centre Board member Matt Dobbs.

Writing for the Animal Pharm website, Matt, who is practice lead for digital technology at Stonehaven Consulting, suggests coronavirus has led the already-challenged veterinary industry to question the ways it works and identify areas for improvement.

Factors already indirectly influencing the livestock veterinary industry, including the increasing focus on domestic food production, have come even more to the fore because of the crisis. As food production responds and adapts, says Matt, livestock vets must consider how they can stay ahead of the game.

Digital transformation for livestock vets

Digital solutions for monitoring livestock health and welfare have become more varied and more affordable over the past 10-15 years, while also becoming of greater interest to the big processors and retailers. Matt believes the rise of digital technology could very well revolutionise the types of services offered by livestock vets.

Citing the move by the UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to respond to Covid-19 by legalising the remote prescribing of medications to farms, Matt suggests, that should this happen across Europe, we will reach a point where the majority of medicines are dispensed by just a few companies.

Loss of revenue in this area means farm vets will have to look at new streams, very likely involving tech solutions. This could see ruminant vets becoming consultants looking after larger animal populations remotely, like their pig and poultry counterparts already do.

Matt said:

“The future is going to be very different. You will see different business models, such as dedicated farm consultant working from the back of their car. Do they really need an office and all the expense that goes into having a clinical practice? All they really need is a decent laptop, access to health and production data and a car.”

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.

Boosting livestock production efficiency with new project

A new project has been launched to boost production efficiency within the UK’s dairy-beef sector.

Livestock production

Well-Calf will develop precision technologies for optimising livestock production efficiency through improvements in health and management throughout an animal’s life.

Approximately 50% of beef production in the UK originates in the dairy herd. There is large variation in productive weight-for-age and health status of young calves entering rearing units from dairy farms.

As a result, disease incidence and antibiotic use is high. An animal’s early life health status influences it performance efficiency in later life. Projected industry losses due to suboptimal early-life management is £120M per year, while the impacts of disease costs the industry £80M per year.

To tackle such losses, Well-Calf will develop the first system for integrating data from different stages of a dairy-beef animal’s life through to slaughter, with an early-warning health detection system specifically designed for calves to detect diseases such as scour and pneumonia. The aim is that the cloud-based system, the first of its kind, will support decision making at various levels, from on-farm to wider farming policy and practice.

Jose Chitty, Chief of Operations for project lead Smartbell, said:

“We are very excited to work on calf health. Pneumonia and scours are the biggest calf killers and severely affect an animal’s lifetime productivity. Through the Well-Calf project we will directly address this problem and expect to increase productivity, improve welfare and reduce antibiotic usage.”

The project has won support totalling £1 million from UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of a package to support ‘Productive and Sustainable Crop and Ruminant Agricultural Systems’. It will run for two years. The lead of this livestock production project is Smartbell and the partners are Agri-EPI Centre, Co-op Food Group Ltd, Dunbia (England), Parklands Veterinary Ltd. and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.

New OPTIBEEF project aims for improved beef production

A new research and development project involving the beef industry, scientists and precision engineering companies aims to enhance returns for beef producers while helping processors become more efficient.

OPTIBEEF will drive improvements in the productivity, quality and the sustainability of beef production by improving the accuracy of current methods of abattoir carcass grading and creating the first platform for integrating data from ‘calf to carcass’.

Beef monitoring

In the abattoir, the OPTIBEEF system will use new technology – 3D imaging and fat sensing – to provide a more accurate and detailed measurement of carcasses and their components. On-farm technologies will be developed for ‘whole-life’ monitoring of individual animals, including advanced 3D cameras, novel fat sensing, automated weighing and feed intake recording.

The integration of the data gathered on-farm and in the abattoir will shed more light on the factors influencing carcass yield and drive improvements in product quality and consistency. Using this information, farmers will in turn be able to make informed decisions to optimise nutrition, health and welfare, slaughter selections and genetic selections.

The lead partner is HallMark Veterinary and Compliance Services. HallMark recently acquired the UK’s independent carcass classification business, MLCSL (Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Limited) from AHDB. HallMark will work with Scotbeef; Scotland’s Rural College; Innovent Technology Limited; National Physical Laboratory; Harbro; Hectare Agritech; Ritchie Ltd. and Agri-EPI Centre to deliver OPTIBEEF over the next three years.

HallMark Chairman David Peace said:

The established, manual method of classifying carcasses relies entirely on human judgement. It is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit and train enough staff and that process can take a year. So, the development of automated classification technology, as a supplement to our current services, will allow us to maintain service levels to customers, with the objective if continual improvement. A dual approach embracing new technology will provide a robust way forward to meet industry challenges.

The on-farm element of the project is about ensuring that livestock are arriving at the abattoir at the optimum point, reducing the number of animals which don’t, at the point of slaughter, meet processors’ specifications. This will in turn optimise returns for producers by helping them be more selective on-farm, leading to greater efficiencies through processing facilities.

The project will also target the ability to predict yield of primal cuts; something the industry has wanted for a very long time.

The three-year project has won funding of £1.7m from UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of a package to support ‘Productive and Sustainable Crop and Ruminant Agricultural Systems’.

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.