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Evonik Animal Nutrition

Embracing Digitalization; Finding The Hidden Value

Published: October 19, 2022
By: Martin Smith, Technical Service Director Middle East Africa
Digitize is one of the current “buzzwords” in the animal production industry. But, as with other such terms, it can mean different things to different people.
“Digitize” is defined as:
“to change something such as a document to a digital form (a form that can be stored and read by computers)” – Cambridge Dictionary
Merely making records available in a form that can be accessed via a computer is not enough. What we really need is to extract valuable data from these records for analysis. This could be as simple as converting tables of numbers into charts and graphs, given that most of us are able to identify trends and patterns more easily from pictures rather than endless columns and rows of numbers.
The next step would be to take this recorded data and compare it with expectations. For example, in poultry production there are plenty of “benchmarks”, the performance expected by the genetics companies. Of course, these benchmarks are usually aspirational, showing what can be achieved with excellent management and nutrition. In real life, the true expectation might be different. Therefore, the ability to collect data and analyze it to set realistic targets is much easier if we have digital records available. Indeed, such targets will certainly vary from house to house, farm to farm.
This comparison against expectation is immediately useful, as we can use it as an early warning system. If the data deviates significantly from expectation, a digitalized system can alert farmers and managers to investigate and quickly remedy the situation.
This brings us to another great asset of digital monitoring; the ability to incorporate automatic data collection systems. Environmental factors such as temperature, relative humidity, CO2 and lighting patterns can all be monitored automatically, and this data added to bird-related data, such as weight-for-age, mortality, feed and water consumption.
From early warning, the next benefit of digitizing flock performance is the ability to predict outcomes. With sufficient information, machine learning systems can make very reliable predictions on items such as future weight-for-age, time-to-target weight, egg production rate, feed consumed to end of flock – all valuable information for optimizing profitability.
One point to remember here is that such predictions must be based on a real understanding of bird physiology and behavior. Merely collecting data and looking for relationships, with no regard for the actual process of growing or egg production, will most probably lead to imprecise or incorrect predictions. Extreme examples of such incorrect conclusions can be found here
Here is one example:
The final point to consider about collecting and analyzing data is the ability to look for hidden trends and indirect effects. An example might be investigating trends in FCR for broilers. Looking deeply into a wealth of collected data, a conclusion could be drawn that a change in cereal content led to a change in physical quality of feed pellets, in turn leading to a deterioration in FCR. From this conclusion comes the opportunity to validate this relationship in the real world.
Having collected and analyzed all the information related to a flock, or a house, or a farm, the beauty of digitized records is they are all neatly kept in one place. This allows a final benefit: that reports on flocks can be easily produced. In this era of increased vigilance on topics such as antibiotic use, animal welfare, environmental impact, such reports will become essential, if not mandatory.
This short summary of the benefits of digitalization hopefully explains why the animal production industry is very actively implementing it. Porphyrio from Evonik is a digital recording, monitoring and predictive tool, based on animal science and utilizing Evonik’s 60 years of experience in nutrition and livestock management.
Call us to learn how Porphyrio will benefit YOUR enterprise. Contact us at martin1.smith@evonik.com or via engormix
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