Pilot project: use of sensors to improve pig productivity
By Rachel Norman and Jason Adair
We were delighted to receive funding from the Internet of Food things Network which allows us to apply statistical and machine learning methods to sensor datfrom a pig farm. We are based in the Computing Science and Mathematics Department (CS&M) at the University of Stirling
(https://www.stir.ac.uk/about/faculties/natural-sciences/our-research/computing-science-and-mathematics-research/) . Within Stirling we have Rachel Norman (@AFSRachel https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/255946) who is Professor of Food Security and Sustainability, Richard Connor (https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/939088) who is Professor of Computing Science and our postdoc Jason Adair (https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/256928) . We are working with collaborators at the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI Centre) in Edinburgh (https://www.agri-epicentre.com/) and the Scottish Pig Producers association (http://www.scottishpigs.coop/).
Whilst much of the research in CS&M is interdisciplinary in nature, this is the first time we have worked with the pig sector, and so this project gives us an excellent opportunity to learn more about this production system. We started out with a meeting at the Agri-Epi centre in which we discussed all of the types and sources of data available at one of their satellite pig farms. This ranges from high tech data from state-of-the-art 3D cameras which estimate pig weight, to handwritten bits of paper which record the average batch weights at two points in their growth cycle. It also includes environmental data from sensors in the sheds which record temperature, humidity and ammonia levels; data on what and how much they eat each day; abattoir data on the weight and quality of each of the 180 carcasses produced each week, and data from the farm’s very own weather station. This meeting was followed quickly by a _very_ early morning run up to the farm to see what the data looked like in the flesh.
It was great to have the opportunity to ask lots of questions about how data is currently used on the farm, and what we could do to help. So, although it is early days, we are looking forward to collating the data from different sources and trying to decide whether the sensors could be used as a management as well as a monitoring tool. It’s early days but it certainly won’t be boaring!
Three Pilot Projects Launched to Showcase Cutting Edge Agri-Food Research in the UK
The Internet of Food Things Network Plus has funded three pilot projects designed to drive Internet of Things innovation in agri-food production.
A total of £150,000 has been awarded to the University of Aberdeen, the University of Stirling and the University of Nottingham for projects related to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in the agri-food industry. The projects will last for six months and preliminary findings will be presented at the Internet of Food Things Network Plus Conference in September.
Professor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology at the University of Lincoln, said: “Food production is a significant and critical sector. These three diverse projects take forward the vision of the network to harness the benefits of cross-cutting research for the benefit of the UK’s agri-food industries.”
The University of Aberdeen was successful in their application for funding with their project “PROoFD IT!: Provenance of Food Delivery through IoT” which will explore the potential of IoT devices to enhance food safety in B2B and B2C food delivery contexts.
Principal Investigator Professor Peter Edwards said: “IoT technologies have real potential to transform the food industry; but we need to be careful about what data we collect, how we represent it, and where we store it in order to maximise its potential. In this pilot project, we are bringing together bleeding edge technologies for IoT sensing, semantic data representation and blockchain business networks to explore future possibilities for safer and trusted food deliveries.”
The University of Stirling was also successful with their project “Use of sensors to improve pig productivity” which will seek to identify ways in which data can be used to enhance efficient and sustainable pig farming.
Principal Investigator Professor Rachel Norman, Chair in Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Stirling, said: "The University of Stirling is delighted to be involved in this project, which provides us with the opportunity to use data science to gain an invaluable insight into pig productivity. Ultimately, it will allow us to explore how we can transform this data - currently used purely as a monitoring tool - into a management tool."
The University of Nottingham was also chosen to receive funding for their project “IoT enhanced Factory Cleaning” which will investigate how data and IoT technologies can be used to detect the presence of allergens and enhance the cleaning of food factories
Principal Investigator Dr Nicholas Watson stated “The IoFT feasibility project will enable the University of Nottingham to investigate some of the opportunities and challenges of using data, machine learning and other digital manufacturing technologies in the critical area of food and drink factory cleaning. We will be working closely with manufacturers ranging from SME to multinational to discover the role these technologies will play in future cleaning operations.”
The three pilot projects will be presenting their preliminary findings at the Internet of Food Things Network Plus Conference in September in Lincoln which is being held from the 17th to the 19th of September. Topics will include data trusts, digital technologies and new economic models for the digitalised food production supply chain. The next funding call for up to £50,000 per project will also be announced. For registration and further details please visit www.foodchain.ac.uk/ioft-conference-2019.