New UA Research Facility Seeks to Nurture Better Birds

New UA Research Facility Seeks to Nurture Better Birds
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture opened its Poultry Science Smart Farm research facility on May 15. Visitors tour the research poultry house at the Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller)

Last week, the $1 million Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility opened at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a project that could lead to the continual management of poultry houses through data collection and AI.

The new facility, which poultry nutrition professor Michael Kidd calls a “smart house,” contains numerous sensors and other monitoring tools that allow for the “rapid accumulation of data in many formats that can be used to optimize efficiency, health and welfare of the birds.”

Kidd, who teaches in the UA Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, said the “smart house” allows researchers to monitor minute changes in humidity, airspeed and temperature, and the birds themselves: how much they eat, how rapidly they grow, their movements and behavior — even how often they cluck. All these indicators enable chickens to reach their full genetic potential, he said. 

“Paying attention to detail is so important,” Kidd said. “At the end of the day, you want [the chickens] to be happy. Animal agriculture is about the welfare and optimization of the bird. These tools will let us do that better.”