New Smart Farming Research Facility to Enable Cutting-Edge Poultry Science Research

The Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility will be located at the U of A System Division of Agriculture's Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville.
Jessica Wesson

The Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility will be located at the U of A System Division of Agriculture's Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville.

Construction is nearly complete on a state-of-the-art poultry science research facility that will open new avenues of research for the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility will be located at the U of A System Division of Agriculture's Milo J. Shult Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville. The $1 million project will be the most advanced research facility for conducting broiler research at the farm once complete, according to David Caldwell, director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and head of the Department of Poultry Science in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

"This facility will be equipped with the most technologically advanced, commercially relevant environmental control and rearing equipment available in the commercial industry today," he said.

Jean-François Meullenet, senior associate vice president for agriculture-research and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, said this sophisticated facility was made possible through a generous donation from Aviagen, equipment gifts from Reliable Poultry, Diversified Ag, MTech Systems and D&F Equipment, and matching funding from Tyson Foods, along with infrastructure funds from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.  

"I am very thankful for the amazing private support we have received for the construction of this facility and have no doubt that it will propel our research forward and make our scientists more competitive for extramural funding," Meullenet said.

"Aviagen is honored and excited to help financially support construction of this unique project and to participate in creating the house design concepts," said Bryan Fancher, group vice president of global technical operations for Aviagen. "This cutting-edge facility will help generate new research findings and better prepare students for the future of poultry farming."

David Bray, group president of poultry for Tyson Foods, said, "The spirit of innovation and discovering better ways to work have been fundamental to the success of Tyson Foods for more than 85 years. We're proud to continue our legacy of supporting agriculture in Arkansas while ensuring students and faculty have the right tools to help lead our industry into the future."

"We are honored the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas System asked us to partner with them in equipping this one-of-a-kind research house to allow poultry science students to learn," said Lisa Kaplan, co-owner of Reliable Poultry. "Donations like these are very important to us because they assist in developing future leaders in the poultry industry, as well as advance new technology in the fast growing, ever-developing industry."

Caldwell said the new facility will enhance capacity in a number of research focus areas, including broiler nutrition, management, welfare and environmental quality.

"The total dimensions will be 45 feet wide by 350 feet in length," he said. "The west end will be where large floor pens are equipped with commercially relevant rearing equipment. This side will also be equipped with cutting-edge sensor and data acquisition technology to allow for research projects to be conducted with a real-time, big data approach."

The other side will be utilized for broiler nutrition research, Caldwell said. "The east end of the facility will be a more standard 'mini-pen' research facility that will be very well suited for broiler nutrition and management research applications." Caldwell added that the facility will allow for more capacity for broiler welfare and environmental quality.

Michael Kidd, professor of poultry nutrition for the Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, said the Smart Farming Research Facility's planned smart technology will allow researchers to conduct studies that address emerging industry needs.

"Computer vision and machine learning technologies are becoming realized tools in the poultry industry as well as our research programs, and this facility will help us execute smart-based research strategies that improve broiler breeder and broiler nutrition and welfare," said Kidd, who also holds the Adisseo Endowed Professorship in Global Sustainable Poultry Nutrition.

Other companies provided pens, electronics and other equipment.

"D&F Equipment Sales Inc. is extremely proud to be part of the Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facilities team along with Stewart Stainless in supplying stainless steel pens and structures. Our mission is always to support and grow our industry and to help bring knowledge and a new generation of practitioners into our industry," said Greg Cagle, president of D&F Equipment Sales Inc.

"With the poultry industry moving towards more advanced data collection systems, Rotem controllers are the ultimate option to gather valuable data while also controlling all aspects of a house. This allows producers to develop a higher quality product in a more efficient manner," said Brad Bowen, regional sales manager for Diversified Ag. "Diversified Ag is excited for the opportunity to be part of this project, and we are honored that Aviagen, Tyson and the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture have put their trust in Diversified Ag and our Rotem controllers."

Caldwell said that the facility will also be used to teach students about poultry production.

Andrew Coburn, sonar project manager for MTech Systems, said, "Facilities like the Poultry Science Smart Farming Research Facility will produce industry-ready graduates through hands-on educational experiences. MTech Systems is excited to provide real-time data and IOT sensors to help solve emerging and relevant industry problems, with the goal of aiding in research and preparing students for a career in the poultry industry."

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