UCD Combines Research with Unitas Software
Researchers at UCD aim to create a single electronic traceability system for the entire poultry chain.
Researchers at the University College Dublin’s Bioresources Research Centre (BRC, www.ucd.ie/bioresources), are developing a number of electronic tracking and tracing systems for the poultry industry as part of a three year research programme, AvianBiotrack, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the Irish Government’s National Development Plan 2007-2013.
Professor Shane Ward’s research team set out to develop a rapid, non-invasive, tamperproof and paperless (electronic) identification, tracking and tracing system for poultry from birth to table. It uses a combination of three technologies at various stage of the poultry chain: These are miniature barcodes on growing chicks & chickens, comb-profile imaging for the egg laying stage and tamper-proof sampling and tagging system for poultry feed that will provide information on the poultry feeding history.
Barcodes are widely known in shops for pricing and tracking items, as well as in factories and warehouses for inventory control. UCD researchers succeeded in printing miniature barcodes onto both beaks and legs of the chickens with reading accuracy as high as 97% for the beaks. This work is done in conjunction with Codico who are a printing company and a partner in the project.
Professor Ward’s team have also developed specific biometric algorithms to isolate the chicken comb profiles. In live trials, they found that this method was able to match the correct hen to its comb with 84% accuracy. Finally, barcode & RFID technology was incorporated into an automated feed sampler to link feed to poultry batch.
On the research programme completion, the researchers will combine all three technologies in a single electronic traceability system for the entire poultry chain. With this in mind, Prof. Shane Ward and his team including Drs Kevin McDonnell, Alexis Pacquit and Gerard Corkery, have started exploratory work with Unitas Software Ltd (www.poultrymanager.com ), a N. Ireland based software company that specialises in the delivery and development of innovative software in particular web based poultry management applications.
When tested by UCD researchers (Drs Corkery and Pacquit), it was demonstrated that this novel software was an innovative and accurate tool that has potential in delivering secure individual bird traceability within the poultry industry.
UCD researchers and the Unitas development team are now working together to demonstrate the compatibility of the existing software platform and the introduction of a new stream of data such as a barcode scan from an individual chicken beak and how it can lead to information such as farm location, batch number, age, feed history, veterinary treatments & antibiotics if any. This level of control and access will enable in the event of a contamination issue, the tracking and tracing of animals/food products and regulators can quickly access critical information to trace a contaminated or faulty batch of product.
Unitas Director Christopher McCoubrey says “We have been delighted to work with UCD on this leading edge research project. The Unitas Poultry Manager platform is currently being used to ensure animal welfare and improve flock performance on farms across Europe. Working with UCD we can demonstrate that it is now possible to take the level of sophistication to an individual bird level. The possibilities this research presents for the industry could be enormous in terms of accurately measuring and predicting bird health, weight variations, feed consumption rates, water consumption and mortalities. We feel that using software analysis on real flocks and being able to examine individual bird level data is the next key step in this research to understanding the potential return to the farmer and integrator.”