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PI: Marian Dawkins

Department: Zoology

OPTICFLOCK takes data from cctv cameras and uses algorithms to automatically monitor the health and welfare of broiler chickens. It has the potential to improve the welfare of billions of animals across the world but, although there has been a great deal of interest from producers, retailers and manufacturers of equipment, they consider it too risky to invest in at the moment. Several have asked if they can evaluate OPTICFLOCK with a view to a possible license arrangement it but it does not yet work reliably enough for us even to be able to send them a trial version.

We are applying for funding to enable us to develop a robust, easy to install ('plug-and-play') version of OPTICFLOCK that can demonstrate what OPTICFLOCK can do - that is, give farmers a daily update on the welfare of each of their flocks and provide advance warning of health and welfare problems. Another barrier is that, currently, OPTICFLOCK only works on-line. Camera data is initially processed on-farm and then numbers sent to our web portal for further processing. A farmer can then log on to see the state of each flock. However, much farm equipment works off-line on local networks and OPTICFLOCK will be much more saleable if its health and welfare data can be integrated with other information farmers already have on their dashboards such as temperature and humidity, food and water consumption etc. If OPTICFLOCK is to be widely used, its data needs to be displayed on the same dashboard so farmers can get the full picture of the state of a flock. To do this, we need to rewrite the OPTICFLOCK software so that it works in off-line, local network mode and can be easily integrated with existing equipment. This will make OPTICFLOCK much easier to license to industry. IAA funding will enable us to take the next crucial steps in preparing OPTICFLOCK for the evaluation tests that companies want to put it through before they will consider investment.

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