Sustainable Poultry Farming/ Ideal Home Project
Ideal Home’s transformative multidisciplinary approach is intent on accelerating the development and adoption of precision, data-driven, integrated solutions to improve the sustainability of the poultry sector. It works with its end users to identify, evaluate, model and recommend best practice in poultry housing infrastructure that will increase productivity, improve animal welfare and help the poultry sector move towards net zero emissions by 2040.
The ongoing Ideal Home project works closely with agricultural manufacturers and suppliers JF McKenna and Moy Park, one of the largest poultry integrators in the UK. Moy Park have over 45 million birds requiring housing at any one time which equates to 2,397 houses across England and Northern Ireland. A poultry house presents a significant capital investment for any farmer and has a lifespan of over 30 years. Additionally, due to the nature of poultry production, these houses have a significant demand for electricity to control internal conditions. If the poultry sector is to achieve its net zero targets while assuring high animal welfare practices, work must start now.
There are four key objectives of the Ideal Home project. The first is to establish baseline performance measures for current farming processes, building typologies and resource flows. The second is to develop a welfare-performance profile for housed birds using precision wearable and environmental sensor methodologies to measure behaviour. The third objective focuses on the future of poultry housing infrastructures. This objective applies data insights to ideate on alternative housing and management systems for improved bird well-being, performance, energy and resource efficiency to reduce emissions. The final objective of the project is to provide robust knowledge exchange and dissemination across the poultry sector, from farmer to processor as well as retail end users.
The cross-disciplinary academic team applies expertise in architecture, animal behaviour and welfare, waste management, agronomy and life cycle assessment to analyse and reimagine sustainable futures for the poultry sector. Professor Greg Keeffe acts as the lead PI for the Ideal Home project within the School of Natural and Built Environment. Professor Keeffe is supported by two Post-Doctoral Researchers, Emma Campbell and Dr. Sean Cullen.
The outputs of the Ideal Home research project seek to spur transformational change towards sustainability and productivity across the UK and wider poultry production system. The project also aims to aid in transitioning the sector towards achieving net zero emissions, alongside more sustainable resource management. Moy Park will be the immediate beneficiary of this research. The intention is that the outputs of this project will be rolled out across Moy Park’s UK estate composed of 590 broiler growers and 2,396 broiler houses. Dissemination of the findings to primary producers, suppliers, and retail customers will ensure the poultry production and retail community are made aware of the feasibility of the proposed precision solutions on productivity and environmental protection. This will in turn inform business decision-making around future strategies on farm expansion/investment.
While this feasibility research will directly benefit the commercial private sector, the academic field will also benefit through industrial engagement and the impact of the project outputs on the Universities Research Assessment Framework (REF). Policy makers will benefit from new scientific knowledge around poultry housing to inform evidence-based decision-making too. Finally, individual consumers will benefit from the knowledge that their poultry purchases support high welfare and environmental practices.
There are currently no publications available as this research project is ongoing and at an early stage.
Ideal Home is collaborative in nature and strives to enable direct and measurable impact across the poultry sector. The academic team works closely with its industry partners, JF McKenna and Moy Park to understand current poultry housing infrastructures and collectively ideate on different sustainable, high welfare housing futures.
More than one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is addressed by Ideal Home due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the project. However, the project identifies most strongly with the challenges of goal twelve which seeks to ensure responsible consumption and production.
Working closely with a large poultry integrator, the research primarily aims to understand and reimagine poultry housing infrastructures. The baseline study informs data-driven ideation which aims to holistically consider sustainability and bird welfare. This requires close examination of the consumption of resources in the construction of the housing and in its operation during the growth cycle and across the lifespan of the building. The outcome of this research seeks to enable reduction of resource use, reuse of waste streams, offsetting of carbon production and sustainable sourcing of raw materials to ensure that poultry production can be as sustainable as possible.