SMART Broiler Phase I Awardees

Marian Dawkins with the University of Oxford, in partnership with Munters and Tyson Foods, is receiving $232,063 to test the ability of a novel camera/computer system called OpticFlock to monitor broiler chicken welfare. Cameras inside chicken houses monitor bird behavior and deliver a ‘verdict’ every 15 minutes to alert producers to early signs of broiler welfare issues, like foot pad lesions and lameness. Munters will help develop the technology so it can be commercialized as a standalone unit and as part of existing environmental monitoring technologies. By combining other environmental data factors, researchers intend to improve the quality of life for farmers and birds.

Niamh O’Connell with Queen’s University Belfast, in partnership with Moy Park, is receiving $310,738 to develop a vision-based system that leverages existing human crowd surveillance algorithms and applies them to the tracking and behavior analysis of broiler chickens. This will enable researchers to monitor large numbers of birds and track individual activity patterns, including welfare indicators such as gait score and feather cleanliness, in addition to natural behavior.

Ingrid de Jong with Wageningen University & Research, and collaborators at Utrecht University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Virginia Tech, is receiving $500,000, with additional support provided by Plukon Food GroupCLK GmbH and Utrecht University for a total $610,000 award, to use an affordable camera-based system and artificial intelligence that automatically records broiler chicken behavior on-farm. The 2D and 3D cameras will continuously monitor broilers’ ability to walk, interact with each other and the environment, and other natural behaviors such as running, playing, foraging and dustbathing.

Lasse Lorenzen with Scio+, Big Dutchman AG and SKOV A/S, with collaborators at KU LeuvenPurdue University and Aarhus University, is receiving $499,649, with additional support provided by Scio+ for a total $1,000,038 award. Scio+ et. al. is using camera technology and advanced image analysis to continuously monitor commercial broiler flocks, map welfare assessments and estimate walking ability.

Hao Gan with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, in partnership with Mississippi State University and USDA-ARS and BioRICS NV, is receiving $350,000, with additional support provided by the University of Tennessee AgResearch and Peco Foods for a total $513,214 award. Gan is using multi-angle and multi-range cameras to monitor commercial broilers at both individual and flock levels and measure their walking ability and level of activity.

Tom Darbonne and Dr. Brandon Carroll with AudioT, are receiving $200,000, with additional support provided by Tyson Foods and Fieldale Farms for a total $505,555 award to develop audio-based monitoring tools created on bird vocalizations that alert farmers to broiler welfare and behavior. Bird vocalizations can provide insight into flock activity welfare status. This project builds on 10 years of research at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Agricultural Technology Research Program and will result in a scalable, low-cost sensor and analytics package complimentary to video-based systems.

About the Research Initiative

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and McDonald’s Corporation have teamed up to offer multiple grants (totaling $4 million) to the groups or individuals who successfully develop and commercialize  automated monitoring tools that can objectively assess key animal welfare indicators in broiler chickens.

Existing methods for assessing animal welfare rely on human observation and subjective scoring. This initiative aims to identify Sensors, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technologies (SMART) solutions to provide objective and comprehensive information about broiler welfare across the supply chain.

SMART Broiler seeks applications to develop technologies that capture key welfare indicators in commercial broiler chicken facilities. This initiative will fulfill a need for commercially-feasible tools that enable real-time, quantitative assessment of behavior, health and well-being of animals in large-scale poultry facilities.

Key Dates & Important Information

Phase I: Early Testing and Refinement
Objective: Explore potential technologies and monitoring methods
Number of Anticipated Awards: 1-4
Maximum Request: $500,000
Pre-Proposal Due Date: May 29, 2019
Full Proposal Due Date (if selected): September 5, 2019
Notifications for Awardees: November-December 2019
Anticipated Project Start Date: January 2020
Phase I Duration: 18 months

Phase II: Validation of Welfare Assessment Tools
Objective: Refinement and large-scale validation of technologies
Number of Anticipated Awards: 2
Maximum Request: $1,000,000
Phase I Report Due Date: June 2021
Anticipated Renewal Start Date: July 2021
Duration: 18 months

The SMART Broiler initiative is broken out into two distinct phases:

Phase I: Early Testing and Refinement is accepting applications from April 2, 2019 through September 5, 2019. Phase I is designed for applicants to explore potential technologies and monitoring methods. FFAR anticipates funding up to 4 grants during Phase I.

Phase II: Validation of Welfare Assessment Tools is designed to refine and validate the most promising technologies from Phase I. Phase II funding is in addition to the previous awards and is dependent upon demonstrated progress in Phase I and submission of a new work plan.

Application Submission Guidelines

SMART Broiler applications must be completed and submitted through FFAR’s online grant management system.

New users can register for an account by clicking the green “Register” button at the top right corner of the home page. You will receive a confirmation email to activate your account before you can sign-in to your account. Once you log in, click on the corresponding program to start your application.

Only applications submitted through this portal will be considered eligible for evaluation. FFAR will not accept applications submitted by any other medium.


Any domestic or international public or private institution, consortium, non-profit organization, for-profit company, tribal government entity or any combination of the above is eligible to apply.


For questions about SMART Broiler, please contact:

Tim Kurt
Scientific Program Director