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$4m up for grabs in new broiler welfare research initiative

MCdonalds restaurant

MCDONALD’S and the Washington-based Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) are launching a project to improve automation in animal welfare assessment.

The SMART Broiler initiative is offering $4m for research that supports the development and commercialisation of automated tools to moniter animal welfare.

Technology solutions

Existing methods rely on human observation and subjective scoring, FFAR said. The new initiative will attempt to identify technology solutions that “provide objective and comprehensive information about broiler welfare across the supply chain”.

The SMART Broiler program will develop tools to quantitatively assess and collect information regarding welfare indicators such as walking ability and behaviour.

‘Profitability’

Developing monitoring tools is critical to understanding and improving animal welfare across the broiler industry,” FFAR executive director Sally Rockey said. “The SMART Broiler program will not only improve the accuracy of welfare assessments but also enhance producer efficiency and profitability.”

The Sensors, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technologies (SMART) developed during this initiative will be tested in McDonald’s suppliers’ commercial broiler facilities, encouraging their adoption on a wide scale.

SMART Broiler grants will be awarded in two phases to multiple, cross-disciplinary teams.

The research objective is to rapidly develop the hardware components, data management and analytics necessary to assess broiler chicken welfare on the farm.

The initial funding phase will award a maximum of four grants, each receiving up to $500,000. SMART Broiler phase I is currently accepting pre-proposals until June 5, 2019.