Seventeen months into the EU FP7 project, all EU-PLF partners met on 2-3 April in Unna, Germany to share on the progress and results. Particular emphasis was also given to the Value Creation and SME Drive groups, which had a brainstorming session in order to draw on the expertise of the partners with the aim to determine the economical and societal value of the use of PLF.
The first day of the meeting was devoted to sharing updates between partners and Work Packages (WP). Each partner presented the progress achieved so far and solutions to overcome difficulties were discussed.
- WP1 has established the list of key indicators and related gold standards. Harry Blockhuis, leader of WP1 elaborated that the indicators and standards can potentially be used by PLF tools to make sense of the collected data and translate them into valuable information for the farmer and the production chain particularly in the areas of animal welfare and health, environmental load and productivity. For each key indicator, WP1 has identified the technologies that have the potential to be used for measuring gold Standards. There are specific lists for dairy cows, dairy calves, broilers and fattening pigs.
- Erik Vranken, leader of WP2, told the partners that PLF-technologies have been implemented in total of 16 farms in France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and UK: ten fattening pig farms, five broiler farms and one calf farm. In each farm, a number of selected key indicators, representing at least one of the domains (welfare and health, environmental load and productivity) are monitored by the implemented systems: eYeNamic (FANCOM, broilers, pigs), Sound Monitor (SOUNDTALKS, pigs, broilers, calves), dust and ammonia monitor (RVC, PLF-Agritech, broilers), pig weight, feed supply, dust and ammonia sensor (PLF-Agritech, Pigs). The systems are now collecting data on a regular basis.
Problems that were encountered during the installation of the PLF tools by WP2 and solutions to address them were carefully noted: these will be an important part of the Blue Print currently being developed by WP6.
The change of the industrial partner for implementation of PLF technology in dairy cows resulted in substantial delays. GEA identified as the new partner, has had its CowView system implemented in four dairy farms in Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. CowView is also being installed in two experimental farms in France and Israel.
- The procedure for labelling data from the farms has now been finalised, said Marcella Guarino, leader of WP3. Researchers and PhD students are mobilised at the universities of Milan, Leuven and Wageningen to perform the statistical analyses and modelling that are necessary for labelling. A total of 305 data files from pig and calf farm have been analysed and their analysis showed that further standardisation of the collected data is necessary. A thorough discussion was conducted in the Pig and Poultry group to address the issue and finalise agreed data format.
- As part of WP4, Kees Lokhorst presented the initial list of PLF-relevant socio and economic indicators that were derived from experts, stakeholders in integrated (Catalonia) and non-integrated (Dutch-Flanders) chains and a European questionnaire on PLF aspects. The most important social key indicators of PLF were labour conditions and duration, job related pride/motivation, availability of advisory systems, successor for farm business to continue the farm. The most important economic key indicators were feed conversion, growth, health costs, delivery weight and energy costs.
Henk Hogeveen presented a fist version of a calculation model for the PLF-relevant socio-economic indicators. More work is still needed to finalise models that are generic enough to apply to all situations.
- Daniel Roses and Heiner Lehr from WP5 confirmed that they have identified 15 teams of young entrepreneurs who are willing to develop PLF projects for commercial use. Currently nine teams are being coached by EU-PLF project partners to get their feet into the PLF market. The nine teams will participate in a competition for the selection of four teams that will receive financial support for developing their spin-off company.
The second day of the meeting was dedicated to WP4 – Value Creation Group and WP5 -SME Drive. WP4, led by Heiner Lehr, made clear that its aim is to provide guidance on the benefits that can expected from the use of PLF technologies. Although no precise figures can be given neither for social impacts nor even for economic impacts, orders of magnitude and direction of the impacts (benefit or loss) can be obtained from modelling. Brainstorming between the groups were encouraged and was very helpful in establishing a hierarchy in factors that impact economic performance and can be monitored with PLF technologies. The SME Drive group briefed partners on the procedure used to detect promising new PLF technologies and young entrepreneurs that are willing to develop them to the market then the partners were allowed to play a “game” that took them through the steps of developing a project.
The EU-PLF partners re-grouped on the afternoon of the 2nd day to discuss plans for the next steps in the project. The Value Creation group will continue its work on the evaluation of the value created at farm level and will start on the appraisal of the value that is created at chain level. The SME drive group will continue coaching and will incorporate the blue-print when it will be available in 2015. It will also organise the contest for funding teams. WP6, Blue-print group will have the first version blue print ready by the end of May 2015.
The Pig and Poultry group will continue collecting data in the farms and improve their quality to facilitate the labelling process. The acquired data will be analysed and correlated to the visual assessment made on the farms. The group will also devote efforts to make the collected data more visible to the farmer and, more generally, to increase interaction with farmers through the creation of a dedicated website. The cow group has still to finalise the installation of CowView in farms and start data collection. Some improvement is still needed for the validation of the data. The group will also investigate the possibility to get more information, hence more added value, from the CowView system, particularly regarding feed intake and behaviour.
All in all, the next year of the project promises to be more exciting with more analysis and results driven work. We would like to thank GEA who organized and hosted the meeting.