An overview of the PIVIT Project, which was established to aid the achievement of sustainable production in the UK pig sector through the application and use of real-time information technologies
Objective of PIVIT
The overall goal is to aid the achievement of sustainable pig production in the UK sector through the application and use of real-time information technologies to provide comprehensive production facility monitoring on the majority of UK professional pig production sites. The project will harness IT’s capability to automatically record key activities on the pig unit, including power use, heating and ventilation system activity, feed and water use patterns and animal growth. The project will return processed information to the site manager in a digestible form that will aid decision making, and provide an industry resource for benchmarking and national analysis.
To achieve this objective, two concurrent projects have been running:
1. PIVIT Yorkshire
This involved the kitting out of diverse production sites with the appropriate hardware to test the on farm systems and generate a data stream representative of the industry and then focus on training people to get the use of the equipment and information generated fully integrated within normal pig production management. The focus is on the growing herd. In addition to straight training in the use of the tools there has been a continuous process of Knowledge Transfer, Data Analysis and Technical Support going on provided by the system supplier Farmex.
The development of a data-processing hub to collate, analyse and report on the data streams produced by production sites. Key to this will be development of new tools to deliver small packets of knowledge to the appropriate operator to support their work and improve performance and job satisfaction. This project depends on the production site having broadband internet access as the new tools under development deliver information to the producer in genuine real time accessed using a browser.
The two-year PIVIT Yorkshire project commenced on January 1, 2012. The former Rural Development Agency Yorkshire Forward approved grant support for a consortium of five producers and Farmex. As the RDAs were disbanded, the project was picked up by the new Defra Regional RDPE Team and provided for capital expenditure on equipment, but the bulk of the funding was for Training, Knowledge Transfer, Data Analysis and Technical Support on farm. It is very much a people-centric project recognising that people most influence success or failure.
Five scale producers in Yorkshire & Humber were involved. Nominally, a nursery site and two finisher sites for each producer is being monitored. There are 12 sites in total within this project. Initially, the project provided support for monitoring equipment on farm. This included measuring devices like water meters, electricity meters, feed auger motor run time sensors and the logging and communications equipment necessary to remotely capture the data generated.
The sites are all on line and the project has been providing training and technical support in the use of Barn Report – a proprietary data capture, distribution and display system supplied by Farmex. Inevitable delays in finalising equipment installation meant that an extension to the period of the project was sought and granted. The final Group Training session took place on February 25, 2014 and the project was formally ended with the final grant claim submission in March 2014.
Baseline performance data relating to energy and water use per pig together with feed conversion and growth was established at the start of the project. The expectation was that some improvement would be achieved based on the simple premise that if closer attention to detail was the result of using the monitoring tools then the pigs would respond positively.
This has, in fact, been demonstrated, but it is very important not to make fancy claims that this is only the result of the project. Herd health in the UK has been steadily improving over the past few years and clearly this will have been having an influence on pig performance. Nevertheless, all participants in the project have confirmed through regular project surveys that they have been learning a lot about how the systems they manage work and therefore how to better manage them.
Interestingly, despite the project coming to a formal end – with respect to funding at least – all of the collaborating partners have agreed to continue the good work. This is as good an endorsement of the objectives of the project as possible: producers introduced to ICT on their farms through public funding support and then carrying on with the systems because they believe further benefits will ensue.
NB: In excess of 70 million records were captured during the period of this project and this number continues to climb. The records are of temperature in the buildings and outside, water and feed use, electricity use, controller settings and output values (e.g. how many fans running and at what level, the position of the inlets and status of the heating if present). It is a condition of the public funding that this data is freely available to research institutions in the UK and EU on request. If you would like access to the project data on an anonymous basis please apply to Hugh Crabtree via firstname.lastname@example.org and the data will be provided in CSV format free of charge.