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Using Wireless Sensors to Improve Poultry Production Wins UCD Agri-Food Sprint Award

Thursday, 26 May, 2016

An early-stage business idea focused on using wireless sensors to monitor environmental conditions in chicken barns to improve poultry production has been declared winner of the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme.

The UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme is a one-day initiative designed and delivered by NovaUCD in collaboration with the UCD Earth Institute. It aims to encourage the development of commercial outputs arising from UCD Agri-Food research by engaging with University College Dublin (UCD) researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process.

UCD Agri-Food Sprint 2
Dr Conor Shanhan and Dr Patrick Jackman, UCD School of Biosystems Engineering, winners of the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme, with Siobhan Wall, Associate Director Corporate Finance, Goodbody Stockbrokers, a member of the judging panel

Over 70 million chickens are produced annually in Ireland alone and the poultry industry is highly competitive, with very tight profit margins.

A key factor impacting poultry production is the environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity, air speed and gas concentrations) in which the chickens live. If these environmental conditions are non-ideal, the chickens will eat and drink less impacting their weight gain.

The winning business idea which emerged from the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme involves placing wireless sensors in chickens’ living spaces to record the environmental conditions.

Real-time spatial and temporal data is recorded and reported to a cloud repository via 3G technology. Any deviations between the recorded data and acceptable environmental limits can be quickly detected, the poultry producer informed who can then take the necessary remedial actions. This will help to ensure optimal environmental conditions for poultry production resulting in higher chicken yields.

Wholesalers will also be able to use the data to monitor producers in terms of production quality.

The promoters of this early-stage business idea are Professor Shane Ward, the principal investigator, Dr Conor Shanahan, a postdoctoral research fellow, and Dr Patrick Jackman, a research scientist, in the Smart Systems Unit within the UCD School of Biosystems Engineering, whose research has been funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

This unit specialises in the application of ‘smart farming’ systems to the agri-food and bioresource industries. Smart farming encompasses the use of the latest technologies and systems associated with realising the potential of the ‘Internet of Things’, coupled with the widespread adoption of smartphones, and the suite of capabilities delivered by them.

The UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme, which took place in the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science, involved 4 early-stage agri-food business ideas being developed by UCD researchers and scientists.

During the one-day programme a number of internal and external technology and business professionals collaborated with the UCD researchers to explore the commercial potential of transforming their research ideas into early-stage agri-food business ideas.

At the end of UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme Dr Conor Shanahan and Dr Patrick Jackman were presented with an award and a €1,000 prize fund to assist them to further develop their business idea, as it was judged to have the most commercial potential.

This Sprint programme followed on from a UCD CleanWeb Sprint Programme which took place in May.

Speaking at the presentation of the Award, Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “I would like to congratulate Conor and Patrick on winning the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Award for their business idea investigating how wireless sensors can be used to help improve poultry production. Our objective with the Sprint Programmes is to engage with UCD researchers at an earlier stage in the commercialisation process and to use internal and external experts to assist them in understanding and defining more clearly the commercial potential of the outputs emerging from their research activities.”

He added, “Our team at NovaUCD was delighted to have worked again in partnership with the UCD Earth Institute in the design and delivery of this Sprint programme, which is focused on testing new business ideas in an exciting and fun environment.”

He concluded, “We look forward to working with other UCD Institutes and Centres in the near future as we roll out similar Sprint Programmes in other UCD research areas.”

Speaking after the Programme Siobhan Wall, Associate Director Corporate Finance, Goodbody Stockbrokers, and a member of the judging panel, said, “I would like to congratulate all the participants who took part in the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme, especially the overall winners Conor and Patrick. I was very impressed with the commercial potential of the 4 agri-food business ideas, which are emerging from UCD research programmes, and which were presented at the Sprint Programme.”

She added, “I wish all the promoters every success in converting their ideas into sustainable agri-food businesses which can have an economic and societal impact, not only in Ireland, but internationally.”

The members of the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme judging panel were; Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation; Siobhan Wall, Associate Director Corporate Finance, Goodbody Stockbrokers and Dr Edward McDonnell, Director, The Centre for Applied Data Analytics Research (CeADAR).

The other UCD researchers who took part on the UCD Agri-Food Sprint Programme were; Professor Nick Holden, UCD School of Biosystems Engineering; Dr Angela Feechan, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and Dr Aoife O’Gorman, UCD Institute of Food and Health.
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