More use of digital technologies on livestock farms will benefit the climate, animal welfare and farm finances.
The EU LivestockSense project is an important step towards a better understanding of individual farmer's attitudes towards the use of intelligent technologies in agriculture. The project focuses on pigs and poultry in five EU countries and in Israel, and now input from local farmers about their experiences with intelligent technologies in livestock farming will form the basis for mapping the technologies and live demonstrations at selected European pig and poultry farms.
If the European agricultural sector is to be climate-neutral by 2050, it will have to make use of modern information and communication technologies. It is uncertain to what extent, and with what effect, automation and intelligent technologies are currently used in European livestock farming. The pan-European research project, LivestockSense, will map the scope of smart technologies and provide better insight into their use.
The project is now entering a crucial phase, in which local farmers in five European countries (Sweden, Hungary, Estonia, Poland and Denmark) and Israel will submit important input about their own experience with intelligent technologies. This experience will form part of a major public study, which will result in a European strategy for how new technology can be better integrated into livestock farming to benefit industry, animal welfare, climate and society.
"The use of intelligent technologies in modern livestock farming is influenced by a number of factors, including a lack of cost-benefit quantification, complicated user interfaces and general uncertainty about the functionality of technologies. This project will study more accurately the factors preventing the adoption of different digital technologies in the livestock sector," says Professor Claus Grøn Sørensen from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University.
The use of intelligent technologies in interaction with the existing use of automation (e.g. automatic control of temperature and ventilation systems) to reduce emissions from the agricultural sector is an important part of the ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The project coordinator, Associate Professor Thomas Banhazi from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia explains:
"Several factors, including the hesitant or negative attitudes of future users of new technology, can affect the rate of implementation of intelligent technologies in modern livestock farming. This project is about understanding the concerns and reservations of farmers with regard to introducing various technologies in their farms," he says.
Intelligent technologies open up for more holistic solutions in livestock farming, for example via sensors, GPS tracking, camera monitoring, etc. Together, these technologies can measure critical parameters in sheds and make real-time decisions to optimise proactively production conditions or to solve problems as they arise. This may include monitoring and controlling weight-gain, feed-consumption or shed environments with regard to carbon emissions or ammonia levels as well as other important variables.
The focus of the project is on livestock farms that already use intelligent technologies, and farms which have not yet implemented these technological tools. The overall ambition is to gain in-depth insight and understanding of general attitudes towards intelligent solutions in both groups, and to compare poultry and pig production from country to country.
Professor Claus Grøn Sørensen
Aarhus University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Tel.: +45 22827547