The British livestock industry is turning to data science in its quest to make pig farming more sustainable and productive with the launch of a new £11 million high-tech centre which will aim to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.
Scientists at the University of Leeds National Pig Centre will draw on expertise from a range of disciplines including data analytics, computer vision, engineering, soil and water sciences, nutrition, health, behaviour, fertility and climate science.
It has been launched in partnership with Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), which has invested £4.5 million with funding from Innovate UK.
Academics will work to identify the key factors contributing to pig farming’s environmental footprint, and attempt to find alternatives that could drive down the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
It is hoped that their findings will help the UK achieve the NFU target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.
The centre’s indoor facility includes the ability to perform in-depth, automated nutrition trials to understand how best to feed and manage pigs at all stages of production.
By harnessing precision nutrition, based on individual requirements, the aim is to reduce the cost of production, improve feed efficiency and reduce the environment impact of pig farming.
Researchers will utilise computer vision to automate data collection from video footage of the livestock, so behaviour and nutrition can be monitored at the individual level.
Professor Lisa Collins, lead for the PigSustain project at the University of Leeds, said: “This new centre allows us to expand our work to improve the welfare of pigs, and the sustainability of the British pig industry.
“Our aim is to lower the environmental footprint of pig farming whilst ensuring that high welfare standards are maintained.”