OpticFlock – helping chicken producers to achieve welfare and efficiency Across the world, demand for chicken meat is steadily increasing, with over 60 billion chickens reared each year. At the same time, farmers are under pressure to improve the welfare of these birds, to use less medication and to reduce the impact on the environment by becoming more efficient. Since both profitability and welfare depend on the health and survival of the birds, it is clear that both chickens and producers benefit from increased chicken health.

With OCC’s expertise, the University of Oxford have been working towards realising the potential of their research correlating flock movement and chickens’ underlying health conditions such as lameness and infection. OpticFlock is a flock management tool that uses a camera to detect anomalies in the movements of chicken flocks on commercial farms and delivers a ‘verdict’ on their current health and welfare status onto a PC or phone. A farmer can thus be given early warning of potential problems, intervene if necessary and so achieve higher standards of flock health and welfare.  OpticFlock now works successfully on farms, is easy to set up and can be accessed remotely whilst still retaining adaptability for future changes in industry demands.

OCC’s wide range of expertise includes the selection of hardware and network configuration, as well as development and support services. OCC’s software development has turned OpticFlock into a system that can cope with the power outages, electrical interference, network loss, high temperatures and other hazards of working in a computer-hostile farm environment.

The participation of Oxford Computer Consultants in the development of OpticFlock has also enabled the University of Oxford to leverage funding from two research councils in the UK (BBSRC and EPSRC) and from an international SMART Broiler project jointly sponsored by the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) and McDonalds.

OpticFlock will be trialled in the US starting in July 2020 and discussions are under way with an international agri-tech company to integrate OpticFlock with its globally used farm dashboard. OpticFlock is now well on its way to becoming a world-wide commercial product.