Greengage technology installed at a BQP contract grower’s site in Suffolk.

Lighting technology pioneer Greengage is working exclusively with BQP (British Quality Pigs) – part of Pilgrim’s Pride – on a groundbreaking commercial trial in lighting and sensor technology to improve pig performance and enhance animal welfare.

Until now, the Edinburgh-based company has focused mainly on the poultry sector, where more than 20 per cent of UK broilers are grown under its lighting. Now, it’s moving into the pig sector, where data surrounding pig performance using intelligent lighting is limited.

There is particular interest across the pig sector in the trial with acoustics in a finishing shed using a “Grunty” sensor developed by the company. The acoustic sensor will eventually be coupled with the lighting system to automatically adjust the lights once an aggression event is predicted or occurring.

Greengage is working on developing algorithms that will differentiate between “happy” or normal sounds within a shed and aggression. This data will be analysed and then fed back to the grower via a smartphone app in real time.

“Early indications show that a change in light spectrum or intensity does have a calming effect on the pigs, and through this work we’re seeking to quantify this scientifically,” said Greengage sales and marketing director, Matt Kealey.

“Tail biting can lead to up to appreciable mortality in a finishing shed. This is an industry-wide issue with a huge financial and animal welfare impact at a time when there is increasing pressure from audit bodies and consumers to cease tail docking. A number of factors contribute to the issue including genetics, feed and environment, yet lighting doesn’t appear to have been looked at on a commercial scale.”

Greengage lighting installed in a BQP contract growing unit.

The acoustics sensor is one of a series of sensors clipped on to the existing lighting cabling to monitor carbon dioxide, ammonia, humidity, temperature and lux levels, and provide 4D camera images.

There are a number of elements to the indoor finishing sheds trial. Overall performance of the pigs under Greengage lighting is being assessed, comparing feed conversion, mortality and days to finish.

Light intensity and colour spectrums are being studied to manage tail biting within the sheds; they can be changed to calm the animals when a “spike” is reported via a cloud-based app.

Greengage has installed this lighting in two identical sheds with a flagship BQP grower in Suffolk. The first shed has just white lights, and the second both white and blue. Both sheds have a dawn-to-dusk controller that allows lighting periods to be set, and both the lighting-up and lighting-down periods controlled to mimic sunrise and sunset.

“Both the farmer and BQP fieldsman have commented that pigs appear calmer under the lights, with definite mood change when the lights are switched to blue,” Matt Kealey said. “At the moment this is unsubstantiated, but when the current batch are finished we should be able to quantify the results with some real data.”

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