How to increase farm performance

With the pandemic still having lingering effects on production, it might seem a daunting task to start implementing aspects of smart farming but now is the perfect time to embrace the data. 

Data gathering, machine learning, intelligent analytics, and new thinking research are all designed to be used to progress productivity and animal welfare.

“The most important part of efficiency is being able to analyse data if you can’t analyse what you’re doing you can’t improve,” Russell Jones, head of commercial development.

Interpreting Farm Data for greater efficiency

  • Employ farm staff for their animal management skills and let them work with the animals. Good, long-term management is hard to find, so use the data available to assist and empower their passion, provide information in real-time to allow evidence based decisions to be made. 
  • Focus on the detail, farming is all about the detail. Fine tweaking and consistency is what it’s all about, it doesn’t matter if it’s broiler, breeders, Commercial layers, Pigs, or fish farming it’s all relatively the same, it is attention to the fine detail that makes all the difference.
  • Everything has a reason behind it so try to dig deep and find the reasons why. Get to the root of the problem, not just the distraction.
  • Make sure you turn any data into information and turn information into action otherwise data is worthless.

“Knowing and not doing is the same as not knowing”

  • Consistently question what you have done and what you are doing, this will help you get the best out of your technical systems and manage an ever-changing genetic requirement.
  • Always consider the bird’s psychology – behaviour and performance are all linked to the mental state of the bird, much the same as humans. Bird psychology is hugely important. Combining a knowledgeable farm team and real-time, 24/7, remote support will always be a bonus for the welfare of the livestock.

Data is a resource that’s just being tapped into, recording and using this data to provide insights will develop and the whole of the Agricultural industry is looking into it.  

Recording data accurately and simply is the challenge.  Adoption of recording and sharing that data can be a little sticky for some, that’s why we will continue to bridge that gap with OPTIfarm service. 


National Poultry Show

National Poultry Show

Join us on day day 2 of the National Poultry Show this week where we are talking all thing equipment. 

Your Equipment is intended to help you do the same job, or even better and with less effort. When your new equipment hits the farm, you may need to work out the kinks to get it running top notch. What new ideas should you consider?

Current farm management systems can visualise and produce data around the clock. Theres some powerful tools available for you today, but are you using them effectively enough? 

See the full line up and get your tickets here.

Technologies we should all be considering

Robotics – Automating routine tasks is potentially a big win for the broiler sector – not least by reducing the number of times a stockman has to enter a shed, as this improves biosecurity, but robots also have the potential to increase the amount of data captured on farms.

Free moving robots can examine every square metre of a barn and map out how air is moving through each part. Evidence shows that free moving robots break up dominance in farms, potentially improving flock uniformity.

Monitoring – Most broiler farms monitor humidity, temperature and other basic metrics. But there is huge potential in expanding what is recorded within sheds.

It’s relatively simple to train basic CCTV cameras to know whether lights are on or off, or inlets are open or closed. 

Beyond that, cameras can reveal the distribution of birds in a shed, how they are moving or how many are feeding at any given point, this is something we have also automated. Teaching standard cameras to identify birds that are eating/drinking and displaying a range of natural behaviours and on average how long each bird spends doing these behaviours. This can offer new levels of insight.

Ventilation & Relative humidity

RH, inside V's outside your poultry house

Let’s talk relative humidity…

For many of us in the northern hemisphere heading into the winter months it is essential that our ventilation is monitored with the relative humidity. Our main focus is to keep the litter dry, preventing pododermatitis and hock burn which is a key welfare indicator.

Hopefully you find this video explanation helpful.

OPTIfarm Support

OPTIfarm Support

Mental Health Day 2020

None of us are superhuman.

We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan and this year has been a particularly challenging one for us all. Farmers are our essential key workers, they keep production going and provide us with food for our tables.

We know that for some it can be a dream to live in a beautiful rural location but it can also be a lonely isolated place and things are not always jolly when working with livestock.

84% of farmers believe mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry according to the Farm Safety Foundation.

Here at OPTIfarm we provide global support 24/7 for farmers and larger poultry businesses by advancing production and welfare in the supply chain. 

If you feel like things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, please ask for help. We are open around the clock if you have any questions or just need a chat.

You can also find some great self-help publications here.

Operational Blindness

Operational Blindness

Operational blindness

If you are not looking for it. You won’t see it.

From our recent poll Inattentional Blindness was voted the No.1 reason why farmers are holding back from Precision Livestock Farming. Have you ever experienced it?

So, let’s start at the beginning. Inattentional blindness, also known as Operational blindness, is a psychological lack of attention that is not associated with any vision defects. It may be further defined as the event in which an individual fails to perceive an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight. You are so focused on one thing you completely miss the glaringly obvious fails in your poultry performance and welfare.

Research suggests that even the most experienced people are vulnerable to inattentional blindness.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in many farms and if not addressed can negatively impact your performance.

Do this sound familiar?

‘You are so focused on driving the ventilation by reading the numbers in the computer that you forget to read the birds’ 

 ‘You have been trying to prevent water spillage with lowering water pressure. You missed the birds fighting for drinker nipples because they don’t get enough water.’

Or maybe you fall into the category of overheating newly placed chicks. Most of the time farmers don’t realise this. 

operational inattentional blindness

How do we fall into this situation?

The same behaviours that are practised everyday, whether they are good or bad, set a precedent and lay down the norms within your farm for how “things” get done and how decisions get made.

If your aim is to eliminate operational blindness or to implement any other changes within your farm, in order to grow and develop, then bringing the Optifarm service on board is ideal to assist you with moving through this change process.

We help you cut through the clutter and assist you with defining your key goals and action plans. We are here to support your decisions and help you stay accountable to yourself and your farm. Optimising, sustaining and advancing poultry production & welfare, globally, through innovative 24/7 human and digital assessments.

Change is hard, why do it alone?

Covid and the CEO

Covid and the CEO

Working from home has been an interesting experience for me, given I spent the past years getting on first name terms with the cabin crew on a number of different airlines globally. My wife has coped brilliantly with me being around (never doubted for a moment), my step sons have discovered that I do actually work quiet hard and I don’t just jet set around the world ‘ living the dream’ and not to forget the dog who still seems amazed every morning to see that I am still around.

Initially my thought was, wow, what will I do with all my time, no driving, no checking in, no waiting on taxis, no time zones, however what I found was a huge initial demand on my time along with my team working together remotely to settle the company down into a new format, ensuring the well-being of all our team and making sure our already tested contingency plans worked in the event of remote working. I am really proud to say that there was absolutely no effect on our ability to serve our clients 24/7 and all credit to everyone here at OPTIfarm for embracing the challenge and just delivering.

As to my new routine, I can say that generally I start around 7.30am with a cup of tea (I am British after all) and I review the overnight activities, emails, internal messages, etc. My day is then full of video calls, emails, report writing, financial planning, etc, broken only but the rare occasion when I try to assist my wife in home schooling a 10 year old (running a global company is a dream compared to home schooling).  ON average my new working day is just as usual pre COVID19 but I try to end the day a little sooner than the midnight flights of old I used to have to catch and turn of the computer at around 5-6pm. I try to keep evenings and weekends as free from non-essential work as possible although I have been known to dip into the now home office on my way past for a quick message or two. this room was formally called an office but clearly wasn’t a place of a lot of work activity, more a home to the things that no one knew where else to put them.

I am becoming a master at Microsoft Teams and have found that actually I am now speaking to my team probably more than before given we are all sat in front of our computers linked up by the one software platform. Thank you, Microsoft this has really worked for us, internal emails are gone and an emoji makes the message more personal and less bland.


I would like to think we have remained in good contact with clients and found that as COVID19 was a global incident everyone around the word has been very receptive to video calls and remote meetings. Probably the biggest challenge is ensuring new potential clients understand through remote contact only the sincerity of ourselves and what we offer through the OPTIfarm service, some things including working relationships are just easier to establish in person, especially in different cultures and languages when body language can be a universal tool we all use to gauge what we are describing to each other. 

I am thinking due to the great success we have had that maybe some regular remote working away from the office is more achievable than we all previously thought and with this in mind we will be considering the potential for new team members to come from anywhere in the world as we clearly don’t all need to be sat in one head office to succeed.


David Speller - CEO - Headset included

My time during the Covid-19 Pandemic

My time during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

What to do when you suddenly stopped travelling for work?

One of the things I’ve learned from COVID-19 pandemic is that I don’t have any time management skills. My time management was dictated by my flight and travel schedule and me trying to avoid bringing work home. Now all of a sudden, I have all this free time saved from travel but at the same time businesses to chase which would require me to travel. I’ve been trying to do my best and apply some methods I’ve read about earlier in my career. 

Here is some stuff that works for me: 

  • Habits: Human is a habitual animal. Keeping at some trivial repetitive stuff can give a structure to a day. For me having a structure is important, like appearing two hours prior to a flight at the airport, habits are like anchors to attach my other activities to. I walk my dog around the compound where we live twice a day. I brew a coffee three times. These help me segment my day and give me some structure which otherwise would be given by my travel itinerary.
  • Keeping businesslike: I came to learn that now I am at home; my wife thinks that I am not working. I had to set boundaries without hurting her feelings while staying functional. We are in a very small summer house, so I don’t have a separate room to work in. I figured our bedroom is free during the day, so I walk in there and close the door whenever I am working. That helped us to separate two worlds. Which brings me to the next point.
  • No one lives life all businesses concluded: There is very small fraction of work that can’t be done tomorrow. It is a continuous balancing act between private and work life and it is very easy to lose this balance when confined at home in both ways. When I draw the line about being busy by closing the bedroom door, I also made clear when I am around the house, I am not working. I still keep checking stuff on my phone to some degree because I may need to respond to something in some other time zone, but I keep it limited.
  • Clearing the head: One thing I miss is my semi-sleep state of mind I had during travels. This gave me the opportunity to clear my head and let my subconscious ponder about stuff life and work related. Similarly, I hear people missing their commutes between work and home. I found the solution at walking. I am lucky that I live in a place with heavenly natural scenery and the shore is just a few minutes of walk. It is not sports training for me, rather a quiet time away from computer, home and everything to wind down and listen to myself.
  • Keeping in shape: Who knew luggage pulling was the one thing keeping me athletic? I am a lazy person by nature, but when I finally understood that this confinement is going to take a while, I made the decision to eat healthier, move a bit more and limit my alcohol consume to a minimum. Binge eating is one thing I can slip into very easily, so I tasked my wife to take care of our daily menu and keep all her snacks away from me. As a natural night owl, I had to force myself to get into bed the same time every night and get up at the same time in the morning. Knowing your own nature helps a lot, when you know what can make you slip away become an issue over time all you need is to work against it consciously.  
  • Getting informed and staying oblivious: I am usually very particular about how I digest my news and get informed about stuff. With the pandemic I choose to stay oblivious to any pandemic related news. If there is a vaccine or a cure, or the end of the world comes, I’ll surely hear about it. But until then getting all kinds of depressing news about things I can’t change will only make me depressed, which won’t help anybody. I have a list of work-related news sites and a few technology sites I follow. When I find something interesting, like spearfishing at the moment, I read anything I can get my hands on about it. But that is it. We don’t have a television receiver at home, just a monitor connected to the Internet where we watch movies and series from Netflix.    
  • This will pass, so be prepared: When we travel for business, we go to visit people who expect us for some business purpose. This means, now is the best time to created those purposes so that we have some place to go and some people to visit after travel limitations are lifted. Remember Joe you never had the time to catch up with? Call him.
  • Housekeeping: We all say “if I had time, I’d sort those files and write those reports and create a framework for this and that purpose”. Well we won’t find any better opportunity, are we?
  • One last thing: No one performs well every day. You are not Tiger Woods.







Dr. Yagmur Akgun

Global Sales Executive

Latest In Machine Learning

Latest development for your Broiler Farm

With Automated Visual Recognition technology, we can create ground truth in real time with auto annotation, enabling us to see and read what each individual bird and the flock is telling us with these new advancements.

Here OPTIfarm we can assess poultry and their behaviour closer than we have ever been able to do to date by creating ground truth in real time, the flock is assessed minute by minute enabling us to see and read what they are telling us.

These new advancements give you snap shot of whats to come from our unique optimisation service. The great thing about these new developments is that they use ‘off the shelf’ cameras to carry out bespoke poultry behaviour assessments.

This latest development in machine learning and artificial intelligence can track, count and identify what the chickens are doing giving us new insights and data that will lead to more new learning and more ways to ensure optimal productivity.

Clients at OPTIfarm we will soon be able to receive this new service along with other new innovations we are working on as part of our already successful 24/7 global farm optimisation.
Be apart of our journey and see what we can do for you and your business, experience all the benefits OPTIfarm brings for your farm.

Broiler Farm Ventilation in Damp and Cold Weather to Minimise Foot Pad Dermatitis

A Presentation that was made by David Speller (Managing Director of Applied & OPTIfarm) at the Avi Carne Forum, Madrid – 26th April, 2018


Levels of Foot Pad Dermatitis (FPD) are not only used as key welfare indicators during inspections by animal health authorities but can also lead to reduced financial returns from a flock. The resultant ulceration on the underside of the broiler foot means that moving around can become uncomfortable and as such movement to feeders and drinkers maybe impaired which can result in lower weight gains, poorer quality carcases and for processors the inability to trade lesion free feet into markets such as China. Principally FPD is caused by wet and sticky litter, although causes have been noted on our own farms due to sticky droppings.

The FPD lesion starts from an erosion of the skin caused by the litter conditions, once the surface of the skin has been eroded the lesion progresses to become an ulcer. As wells as being painful the break in the skin surface can offer an entry point for bacteria causing infections.

The aim of this paper will be to discuss the specifically the management of the ventilation to ensure the litter in the broiler house is kept dry and friable and thus the occurrence of FPD should be reduced. Other matters such as litter type, drinker management, nutrition, stocking density, genetics, light management, etc are not discussed.

Ventilation Control to Reduce FPD

Given that the major cause of FPD on farm is wet or more importantly sticky litter, keeping litter dry and friable must be a key goal. It is worth suggesting that when broilers are younger the skin cells on the feet are softer and more prone to damage and hence leading to increased resultant FPD.

What should be classed as cold damp weather is dependent on the difference between the external climate and the internal conditions of the broiler house. What we are concerned with is the difference between the internal and the external and not necessarily the specific temperature or relative humidity outside.

Basic Principles of Air & Moisture Together

  • Warm air can hold more moisture by way of water vapour than cold air
  • Warm air rises and cold air sinks
  • Simply put, warm air is light and cool air is heavy
  • Relative humidity is the amount of water vapour present given as a percentage of the total potential of that air given its temperature stated as a percentage.
  • As air temperature changes by 1-degree Celsius the ability to hold moisture changes by 5%.
  • Warm the air by 1 degree and the RH% falls by 5% as the warmer air could have held more moisture so relatively it is not as full of water any more, drop the temperature by 1 degree and the RH increase by 5% as the air is becoming saturated.
  • As air cools it is unable to hold as much water vapour and the vapour is released (Dew Point) which can settle on cool surfaces, cold windows, cold walls, cold litter.
  • Air has a mass and should be thought of like water in the way it is moved, to get air or water moving takes a force, once moving to keep it moving requires less force.
  • Like water air in small jet streams does not travel very far, but large columns of air move further but require more force, like a large water jet will go long distances but needs lots of force to propel it.

Problem with Venting in Cold Damp Weather

Firstly, lets understand how much air we need to bring into a broiler house at any one time. We all appreciate that the amount of air needed is dependent on the total amount of body weight in the shed. Lots of small birds need less air than lots of big birds. We also know that in hot weather we need more air than in cold weather.

Aside from replenishing oxygen in the broiler house a considerable amount of the air volume vented through a broiler house is done so to keep birds cool, remove moisture, remove dust and remove waste gases. The actual requirement of the bird to replenish the available oxygen required is quite low (approximately 0.5 M3/Kg/Hr).

If we remember that we have stated young birds, with softer skin on the feet, are susceptible to FPD as their skin cells can be eroded easily and a lesion can form and if we link this to the fact that younger, smaller birds need less ventilation we can start to see the problems we may encounter. We want dry friable litter to minimise the FPD, which is best achieved with lots of warm dry ventilation, but what we have is young birds with low ventilation requirements and what we are bringing into the broiler house is low volume, cool damp air as it is cold and wet outside.

Our only hope is to bring the cold damp air into the house and let it mix with the warmer air  away from the broilers in the broiler house with the aim of reaching the birds with a mixture of the airs with some fresh oxygen having allowed some of the old air to be expelled through the extraction fans or naturally aspirated vents.

However, this low volume cold damp air wants to do everything we don’t want it to do, it is cold so it wants to sink down on to the birds, it is damp and so full of moisture that wants to condense somewhere and it is in low volumes so it doesn’t want to be thrown very far.

Shed Design Assisting Cold Damp Weather Ventilation

We have many designs of broiler houses around the world with shed structure and ventilation methods designed dependant on the most common local conditions. Often the main focus is how to keep the birds cool in the summer as heat stress can kill the broilers, whilst poor venting in cooler weather, whilst impacting on performance, rarely kills the birds. In countries that are relatively cool all year we see buildings with high roofs to allow cool air to remain away from birds whilst in hooter climates the roofs are kept low to minimise the create better wind tunnels during hot weather venting. It is generally these lower ceiling sheds that create the greatest challenge to vent in cold damp weather.

So How Can We Manage to Ventilate in Cold Damp Weather and Minimise FPD

We must accept the parameters we cannot change, or at least not easily within the budget of a broiler farm, namely the external temperature and humidity.

Now consider what we can manage which is the number of inlets we can utilise, the size of the column of air we want to bring in and at what speed.

We know that cold damp air is heavy and takes a lot of force to get it moving, and we know that like water, once it is moving it takes less energy to keep it moving, therefore we might want to consider ensuring sufficient air pressure to get the air moving from no movement such as with modulating fans controls, but where we have constant fans running we may want to reduce that pressure slightly so as not to over speed the air causing excessive turbulence above the birds.

Remembering how water comes out of a hose, and that air moves like water, we know that a larger column of air moves distance better than a small fine jet of air, so in cold damp conditions aim for fewer larger air streams than lots of tiny little air streams. Some inlet manufacturers have tried to make this happen automatically.

How Does Cold Air Sinking Cause Wet Sticky Litter?

The first thing that happens when cold ventilation air sinks to the floor is that it drops down on to the litter surface leading to the litter surface cooling down. This cooler surface to the litter then allows either warmer moisture rising from within the litter or the moisture in any of the warm air above the litter to condense on the litters surface, creating moist sticky conditions.

This is especially noticeable if it occurs during dark periods when the birds are resting and the air movement in the broiler house become less turbulent without the thermal currents created by the broilers body heat warming the air in the house. In addition, the birds sit on the litter bringing the warm moist air immediately surrounding their bodies down to cold litter where the moisture can condense.

The key to successful ventilation which will reduce the occurrence of FPD is to ensure you keep the cool damp air up above the birds for sufficient time to mix with existing warm air and you must ensure the air reaches across the desired distance to replenish all areas in the broiler house.


It is possible to ventilate most facilities for cold damp weather however each location can be unique and each shed requires initial setup and monitoring. Ultimately air flow should be tested with a smoke machine as it is only then that the human eye can really appreciate where this air is going and try to predict its impact on the birds and their litter.