Autonomous Navigating Robot For Poultry Layer Farming

Briefing workshop hosted by the Envirobot Consortium

17th May 2022

The Envirobot Consortium has developed a data collection robot for operation in caged layer farms. The robot designed for the collection of environmental, health, and bird welfare data has been trialed by our partners in China on broiler and layer farms.

The programme includes:

  • Current market place – Octopus, ChickenBoy, RoboChick
  • The latest robotic developments
  • Headline data
  • Key benefits
  • Future potentials
  • Question and Answer session

The Envirobot consortium has completed a Newton funded 36 month feasibility study.

The study has encompassed:

  • Specification and development of a UK robot system optimised for operation in complex environments
  • Autonomous navigation
  • Development of an alternative robot for use on Chinese Poultry farms
  • Development, testing, and deployment of a range of environmental sensors
  • Development of Health sensor (VOC sensor)
  • Development of bird Welfare sensor (behaviour)
  • Multiple data sets and ongoing advice for optimal environment to farm managers

Based on advances made during the study, the Envirobot Consortium will present new findings in the context of the poultry industry in Europe and China.

This will be an online even, commencing at 10:00 on the 17th May 2022

Practical Future Farming at PIX

OPTIfarm Events

This month we are heading to the Gold Coast to discuss Practical Future Farming at the Poultry Information Exchange (PIX)

This year’s event will be held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from Sunday, 15 to Tuesday, 17 May 2022.


One of the most diverse ranges of solutions available to farming today and in the future is that provided by technology and data. 

We all know that our industry is facing various degrees of challenges and ever-growing risks but the demand for healthy nutritious food on our tables does not waiver. 

Practical future farming will be about reducing the risks in your business to make your farming more predictable, more manageable, and more transparent. To achieve this, expect some investment in technology along the way and the likely need for some external services and support to achieve your goals.

Find us at the Pig and Poultry fair

OPTIfarm Events

Find us at the Pig and Poultry Fair on the 10th and 11th of May. 

The team will be on hand to offer help and support and answer any questions you may have about utilising our resources.

Drop by the Evonik stand 362 or stop any of our team around the fair, we are always happy for a cuppa and a chat.

We know you may have a tight schedule to keep and to save you wandering around aimlessly you can make an appointment on either day to discuss your requirements. 

Poultry Tech Support Routine

Technical Corner

Latest insights and information from our Technical Director

By Nigel Strain

 Today I have provided poultry tech support to clients across four continents, without the need to leave my home here in beautiful North Wales! 

My day started by providing ventilation support to a good client based in Sydney Australia, where they were having issues with their tunnel inlets (yes – it’s lovely and warm over there currently!) It is vital that tunnel ventilation is operating correctly when it’s needed, allowing it to provide the necessary cooling effect and prevent heat stress on the birds. 


Water reduction investigation

My second task of the day was to investigate the reason for a reduction in water consumption in a broiler house for our good client in Thailand. It’s always a concern when water consumption is off-trend and a sure sign that something is amiss either in the environment or the health status of the birds.

“Optifarm is a truly global business. We are proud to provide a cost-effective and time-efficient service and care to each of our clients all over the world.”

High levels of CO2

Next request was from our good client in Johannesburg South Africa who had issues with high carbon dioxide levels in their houses. In South Africa, it’s common to use coal furnaces to heat their poultry houses. It’s important to ensure adequate ventilation; minimum ventilation is key to removing toxic air and excess moisture from the house, providing the birds with good quality air.   

Overnight temperature variations 

Here in the UK we’ve recently experienced cold overnight temperatures and windy conditions. A good client asked for advice to prevent their houses getting cold overnight. Heating capacity is so important during the winter months, and this client has the advantage of gas heaters to support their biomass system. However, minimum ventilation shouldn’t be set too high and it’s worth considering increasing set temperature slightly in the evening when you know it’s going to be a particularly cold night.  

Understanding expectations

And there was still time in the afternoon to onboard a new client via a virtual meeting! Our onboarding process is key in understanding each client’s needs and expectations, which allows us to provide a great service from day one! 

Optifarm is a truly global business. We are proud to provide a cost-effective and time-efficient service and care to each of our clients all over the world. We take great responsibility for our carbon footprint and sustainability. Innovative technology, including artificial intelligence, allows our poultry technical support team to virtually globe trot, remotely supporting clients with their technical issues without any risk to biosecurity – a great advantage given the increased threat from avian influenza, viruses, and diseases.  

A little rumination

Our new world certainly brings challenges, but there are many good opportunities too. Whilst there’s absolutely a need to be face-to-face sometimes when conducting business, we can also take advantage of remote and virtual working, and not only during a pandemic! Sitting here at my comfortable home office, I’ve embraced my new way of working and the positive changes that it brings – fewer hours wasted in traffic jams, less time away from family and friends, not having to stress about delayed flights and missed connections! Positive change is good for the soul, good for the environment, good for the pocket! 

Visual Monitoring of Broiler Behaviour, Health and Welfare using Artificial Intelligent Image Machine Learning.

This project will monitor specific behaviours in the flock to improve our knowledge of intensively raised broiler chicken behaviours in relation to modern management techniques allowing for improved health, welfare and performance. 

24/7 monitoring of poultry environments with quantified visual observations aim to record which behaviours are being displayed by ratio at specified times and known conditions. This potentially enables early disease detection reducing mortality.

The environment required for optimum chicken growth is tightly controlled. Various elements are measured and managed constantly throughout the day. Small changes in these environmental elements cause significant changes to the chickens’ state of wellbeing. 

Observations of behaviours are a proven indicator of animal health and welfare. Chickens can suffer from a myriad of illnesses and ailments, these almost always display some sort of behavioural change.

Currently, farmers use environmental measures and visual observation to see any change in the birds. This relies on quality observations from the stockman. Reliance on human intervention is not a guaranteed method of effective management though.

Using camera systems and AI technology to analyse the images, selected broiler behaviours being displayed by how many birds at what time of day and in what conditions will be identified to assess overall wellbeing.  

A collaborative project involving Applied PoultryV7 Ltd, and the RVC.

Avian Influenza’s back with a vengeance!

Technical Corner

Latest insights and information from our Technical Director

By Nigel Strain

I’m sure we are all sick of hearing about viruses over the last year or two (no pun intended!), but Avian Influenza is a major challenge for our customers and a real threat to our industry. In the notsodistant past AI would be a threat for one in three or four winters, but last few years the virus has gained strength, spreading further and hanging around much longer. Last year the poultry industry was hit hard by ‘bird flu’ which arrived early and kept going well into Spring. Unfortunately, this season’s AI has arrived on our shores even earlier than last year and has spread across Europe and Great Britain very quickly. There has already been twice as many outbreaks detected in wild bird across Europe in 2021 than there was in 2020, and new cases are being reported almost daily now. 

“Chicken farmers are facing a perfect storm – high feed costs, increasing energy costs as well as the threat of AI.”

AI is a viral infection that is spread among birds. Fortunately, it very rarely affects humans and there have been no cases of humans affected here in the UK. What is particularly worrying this year is that so far the large majority of cases have been identified as the more serious Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 strain. This does not mean that the virus is more infectious and does not increase the risk to humans, but being highly pathogenic rather than low pathogenic does mean that it has much greater potential to kill chickens. Focusing on the UK, HPAI H5N1 cases have been confirmed in many counties including Angus, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Wrexham, Cheshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Essex. These cases were identified in wild birds, captive birds and non-commercial flocks mainly, but also in some commercial flocks.  

There’s never been a more important time to support and empathise with our customers. Chicken farmers are facing a perfect storm – high feed costs, increasing energy costs as well as the threat of AI. It’s not going to be an easy winter!  

Smart Solutions in Poultry Farming

Broiler farm monitoring

In the October issue of the Poultry Business magazine, they featured an article on how one poultry farmer advanced his production and bird welfare for the 200,000 birds on site. 

Mathew Philips, a farm manager from Herefordshire told how access to insights and around-the-clock support from the OPTIfarm team has been the key to a more proactive approach and in getting the best performance from the birds.


Read his full story:

Nigel Strain becomes Technical Director of OPTIfarm

We are delighted to announce that Nigel Strain has been appointed Technical Director here at OPTIfarm.

Nigel has vast poultry knowledge and experience gained from management roles in the UK, Russia, and EMEA region, and will be of great benefit to our customers and colleagues.

After progressing to management roles with major UK producers, he moved to Russia in 2015 to become production director in the Bryansk area responsible for an integrated operation rearing 1.2 million broilers weekly. He is also a qualified training assessor up to NVQ level 3 standard.

“I’m excited to be part of Optifarm and working with its innovative and forward-thinking team. With 30 years experience in the ever-changing and fast-paced poultry industry, as well as the smart technology and unique service Optifarm offers, I‘m well positioned to help our customers by offering solutions that will maximise their bird welfare, performance and profit.”

Dr. Theo Demmers joins our R&D team

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Theo Demmers of the Royal Veterinary College to our Research & Development team. 

Theo graduated from Wageningen Agricultural University (WUR, Netherlands) with a degree (Dr Ing) in Environmental Science in 1987. He then spent 5 years working at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (IMAG-DLO) in the Netherlands on gaseous emission (ammonia) reduction technologies from livestock before joining Silsoe Research Institute in 1993 as a Researcher. He completed a part-time PhD from Nottingham University in 1997. He moved to the RVC with the Animal Welfare Science and Ethics group as a Senior Research Fellow. Forming part of the centre of animal welfare, focusing on environmental factors affecting pig and poultry welfare and behaviour.

Theo is a founder member on the committee of the European Association for Precision Livestock Farming (EA-PLF).

Can we help with your next project?

Our R&D team are currently working on a joint global project for monitoring the health and welfare of broilers and layers. Developing autonomous robotics with camera systems, environmental sensors, and novel health sensors looking for particular diseases. Then we are on to another which involves looking at automated welfare scoring in broilers using camera systems and artificial intelligence.

If you are looking for support in developing your next project with our on-farm trials and combined insights then talk to our team.

Welcome Lizzie Brass

We are delighted to welcome our Data Analyst intern Lizzie to the OPTIfarm family while currently attending Newcastle University, specialising in Animal Production Science.

Lizzie Brass

Lizzie has always been passionate about poultry, growing up on a family farm in Cumbria where her parents keep commercial laying hens, organic and free-range. 

“Some of my first memories are out in the fields with the hens. Upon working in the family business my love for welfare became apparent.” Says Lizzie.

This drive is what led Lizzie to her previous commercial role in agricultural research for The Lakes Free Range Egg Company.

To further her knowledge, research skills and broaden her knowledge about the advancements in agriculture as a whole, university was naturally the next step.

“I don’t think anyone can deny that while we have some of the best welfare and agricultural practices in the world, British agriculture still has room for improvement! It’s an exciting prospect my generation faces.”

New experiences

Lizzies experience in the poultry industry is predominantly in the Laying Hen sector where she has worked throughout the whole supply chain.

“When I had the opportunity to leave my comfort zone and gain experience with broilers at OPTIfarm for the summer I jumped at the chance.”

Currently, she is getting to know the systems of retrieving client data, and then utilising it so our clients can make adjustments to improve the bird’s welfare at farm level.

“One of the biggest strengths that I’ve identified so far is that the real-time data collection can lead to the alteration of conditions in the broiler shed within the hour- a unique service offered by OPTIfarm.”

While Lizzie is a Data Analyst Intern, we believe it is a great opportunity to gain experience on the farm, so she can see the client’s perspective of OPTIfarm and how farmers can utilise the data we are collecting.

“I’ve been lucky to place chicks on various farms and worked my way through the brooding period. David and Raja identified for the best intern experience I should visit multiple different sites with unique setups and equipment.”

Lizzie has been a great addition to the team already, now heading into her first set of night shifts to truly experience our around-the-clock service.