A new Defra-funded project is now underway to develop an automated service for farmers to provide 365-day surveillance of their pigs.
The FarmSense project, scheduled to run until 2024, aims to improve and monitor pig welfare by providing an automated surveillance service with a unique disease detection system.
Led by Innovent Technology and costing £785,000, the project produces daily reports and alerts on pig performance and behaviour, enabling farmers to monitor remotely.
FarmSense uses image and sensor technologies placed on farms, combined with artificial intelligence to support farmers in optimising pig production whilst assuring the highest animal welfare standards.
The smart monitoring system continuously analyses animal growth, behaviour and gas profiles along with the animal’s day and night patterns.
The AI system learns how to automatically detect any changes in pattern indicating problems such as early disease onset, tail biting and abnormal eating or drinking behaviours.
The system uses a method, developed by Innovent, of smart 3D cameras that monitor animal growth and behaviours, to provide the farmer with insights into the behaviour and weight of animals, avoiding unnecessary and stressful interventions to the pigs.
David Barclay, who works at the firm, said: “It’s critical to invest in technology for the pork industry, projects such as FarmSense allow consortiums like ours to push the boundaries and bring innovation into the sector.
"Our aim is always to bring value to the producer, this system will allow us to identify where potential is being lost in finishing, and monitor the outcome of change to address that loss.”
Trials to develop the new system are taking place at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) research farm near Edinburgh.
Follow-on commercial scale trials will take place within both outdoor and indoor production systems owned by pig processor Cranswick.
Ash Gilman, director of agricultural strategy at Cranswick, said adding the next level of surveillance and analytics to the business was 'vital'.
“We installed a small number of Innovent’s 3D cameras in one of our finishing sites in August 2020, as I was keen to learn exactly what they were capable of.
"Early disease detection, scientific weight selection without intervention, and welfare indicators need even more focus to ensure we are both sustainable and profitable in future.
"I am extremely keen to see this technology developed and scaled up commercially as part of the project.”