Science and tech fuel sustainability. The case of YieldX and early disease detection.
Poultry farming is rearing any or all domesticated fowls, including chicken, geese, ducks, and turkeys for their meat or eggs. Poultry farming is a vibrant segment that contributes to food security and availability worldwide. Poultry meat remains the most consumed meat around the world, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all animal meat products. And while in recent years there has been much discussion about sustainability, environmental issues, and protein intake from non-animal sources, which is already starting to reduce beef and pork consumption, all of these will only lead to an increase in poultry consumption.
However, the poultry industry suffered a lot from the emergence/re-emergence of diseases. Events that even if they are rare in frequency and even some of them can be taken over in time when these events occur, the damages are enormous. As matter of fact, the direct and indirect economic impact of a single disease on a poultry farm can range from millions of dollars to more significant events where it comes to billions of dollars in costs and losses.
Several pathogens cause many diseases of poultry either alone or in synergism with different microorganisms in addition to non-infectious factors which influence bird health. These factors include house structure, climatic conditions, stocking density, hygiene, and most importantly nutritional requirements. Infectious diseases (caused by virus/bacteria/fungi/parasites) cause many disease conditions. These infectious agents can be introduced or spread via vertical or horizontal routes. At initial days of age, vertically transmitted infections and improper hatchery eggs sanitation (yolk-sac infection / Omphalitis) with Salmonella, E. coli, Mycoplasma are common. However, infectious agents can also be transmitted horizontally via direct contact with the infected/non-infected birds.
The importance of nutritional aspects
Nutritional deficiencies are the main constraints that affect the health and productivity of poultry and poultry farming. Nutrition is an important factor in immunity, disease control, and prevention. Active/Passive immunity is affected by nutrition, quantitative and qualitative feed constituents, and hygiene. Nutrients viz. protein/amino acids, Fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are vitally important for enhancing immunity and health. The appearance or accumulation of bacteria in feed can cost not only the lives of the birds but mainly turn all production into losses as feed accounts for over 70% of the total production costs in poultry farming.
For example, crude protein is the most expensive item in poultry nutrition. At both the protein level and the protein source, essential amino acids are considered critical. The use of essential amino acids may be kept at a minimum level to reduce costs and nitrogen pollution. Protein and essential amino acids are vitally important for growth and antibody formation and a well-functioning immune system. Supplementation of a low protein diet with essential amino acids is useful in maintaining the immunity and growth performance of birds while fulfilling their nutrient requirement.
Essential fatty acids, principally omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, are essential for animal health and immunity. The dietary omega-6: omega-3 ratio is essential for a proper immune system function.
Microelements such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3 are essential for bone health and preventing bone disease (rickets, osteomalacia, and lameness). These prevent the poor egg-shell quality in layers. Essential micro-minerals such as zinc, iron, chromium, copper, selenium, and iodine are considered as antioxidants and immune (RBC’s function) and health enhancers. And vitamins, of course. Vitamins boost poultry immunity. Recent recommendations for some vitamins; 200 mg/kg diet vitamin C, 100–200 mg/kg diet vitamin E, and 2500–4000 mg/kg diet vitamin D3.
Cracking the disease economics
Production diseases are a complex interaction of animal genetics, environment, and pathogens. It also includes deficiencies in housing management and nutrition. These diseases compromise animal health/welfare and production efficiencies and harm both production, the environment, and the economy (local and international). If the damage of the diseases is examined, several groups can be considered.
(1) Economic impacts internal to the farm:
Loss of capital (i.e. animal mortality)
Reduced outputs of markets
High level/waste of inputs (Impaired FCR)
(2) Economic impacts (internal-external to farm):
Increased resourced costs of detection of disease
Increased resourced costs of detection of prevention and control
Compromised impacts on animal welfare (diseased animal)
Compromised food security
International trade restrictions due to disease and its control
(3) Economic impacts external to the farm:
It accounts for the financial impact on rural economies. As, financial impacts result from elevated bird mortality come from the loss of sales, expenditure on housing, feed, and health care for birds that subsequently die, and the cost of disposal of carcasses.
The importance of early detection of disease in poultry farming:
Early detection and diagnosis of bird disease are very important. It is the optimum strategy that minimizes emerging disease threats in poultry and predicts any outbreak. As the intensification of poultry production increases, predicting disease emergence may be necessary to decrease potential losses attributed to infectious disease. Moreover, predicting infectious diseases has great value for the food security and sustainability of the poultry industry. Consumer perspectives on the quality and safety of animal products are linked with food security. Many foodborne diseases can be transferred through the food chain e.g. Salmonella/Campylobacter spp. are the poultry bacteria more often responsible for human foodborne diseases. Modern technologies (Sensor/surveillance) rapidly detect the bird’s disease and on-spot diagnosis. It results in robust poultry farm management by minimizing the chance of disease spread to other poultry groups.
Early Detection of Infectious diseases is a key factor in disease management. As it minimizes the economic losses that result from the disease outbreak. Awareness of the actual onset of the disease in real-time or closest to the formation and intervention can often be the decisive factor between fatal damage to production and animals and sustainable production.
As measured in one of the studies, for example, the total economic losses from uncontrolled keel bone damage average around €4 over the life of a laying hen, while losses from uncontrolled Infectious bronchitis reach €3.2 per laying hen. Losses on this scale would, in most years, make the affected flock unprofitable. Among the reviewed diseases affecting broiler flocks, uncontrolled clostridia are incurred the greatest losses at around €1 per broiler bird (slaughtered at 2kg live weight), while losses from uncontrolled coccidiosis amounted to €0.21 per broiler.
So, real-time, prediction, early detection, and prevention of distribution of diseases are definitely of high value to poultry production and this is exactly the purpose of YieldX.
YieldX is actually the first-ever Precision Livestock farming Data Platform that may predict, and early detect diseases in livestock farming. It's Bio-AIoT (AI & IoT)-powered, real-time, automatic (no human intervention), 24/7 biological goods-in-process monitoring, and smart suggestion platform.
Using a state of the art approach to BigData, AI, and IoT-based enhanced connectivity and multidimensional sensing capabilities, the solution provides full visibility within the "farm-to-fork" production and logistic chain, enabling value to all of the players around; feed & nutrition companies, producers, animal health & welfare companies, and so on.
The uniqueness about YieldX is that the company managed to create a "grid" of IoT devices placed through the critical location throughout the entire production chain, including actual biological commodities such as eggs/chicks. IoT devices are equipped with many sensors that can provide in real-time all the needed environmental, physiological, and operational data that is required to make an informed decision with a very high level of impact both operational and welfare-related.
Today when everyone is talking about DATA, it is clear that not all DATA has value and not all DATA can be leveraged for informed operational decisions. For YieldX it was very critical to build a solution that is capable on the one hand of collecting, generation, and processing huge DATA, and submitting to decision makers only the outputs that have intrinsic value. This is a classic case when science and tech fuel sustainability.