Focus on young animals
The research goals will zoom in on young animals, as they are a key focus for Trouw Nutrition anyway. Mrs Beerthuis says, “We are particularly interested in young animals as we believe that is where the foundation is laid for a good and efficient life production. Think of finisher pigs, growing them is less challenging than raising young pigs successfully. That is why it pays off to know more about them.”
Apart from Trouw Nutrition, the research programme involves the Dutch companies Noldus and Sorama and the Netherlands-based academic institutes Radboud UMC and Wageningen University & Research. In total the programme costs € 4 million, of which, part will be covered by European research grants and regional grants from the Dutch Gelderland province.
除了泰高动物营养，该研究项目还包括荷兰的Noldus和Sorama公司，以及荷兰的拉德堡德大学（Radboud UMC）和瓦格宁根大学研究中心（Wageningen University & Research）。该方案的总费用为400万欧元，其中一部分将由欧洲研究补助金和荷兰盖尔德兰省的区域补助金支付。
Each party will have an own part to play within this collaborative research project:
· Trouw Nutrition will focus on welfare-related precision feeding as well as development of nutritional additives with (in vitro) models, data science and behavioural studies to support the health and improve performance.
· Noldus, headquartered in Wageningen, the Netherlands, is specialised in behavioural research and will play an important part in providing sensors and develop the ‘Intelligent Behaviour Research Platform (IBRP)’, where all the data will come together and be made accessible and easily usable.
· Sorama, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, has developed a 3-D video camera which is able to capture, distinguish and interpret sounds, their patented technology is enabling the researchers to localise these sounds exactly. The company has a broad experience in applying this technology in many fields, but not in agriculture.
· At Radboud UMC in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is a research centre devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of human cognition and behaviour in health and disease. This university is included in the research project to learn more about the specific relationship between mother animals and their offspring. Zooming in on rats, on a neurological basis – they aim to discover what can influence the behaviour of the young rats and learn on this level.
· 荷兰奈梅亨的拉德堡德大学(Radboud UMC)，唐德斯大脑、认知和行为研究所(Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and behavior)是一个研究中心，致力于理解人类在健康和疾病方面认知和行为的机制基础。这所大学被纳入研究项目，以了解更多关于母兽与其后代之间的具体关系。在神经学的基础上，他们对大鼠进行放大——他们的目标是发现什么可以影响幼鼠的行为，并在此基础上学习。
· Wageningen University & Research is involved to develop models on so-called ‘intestinal organoids’. These are cell cultures of intestinal stem cells which can be used as a model for an entire gut. The models will be used to source effective nutritional additives based on specified characteristics and will lead to fewer pigs being needed for trials.
· 瓦格宁根大学研究中心(Wageningen University & Research)正在开发 “肠道类有机物”模型。这些是肠道干细胞的细胞培养物，可以作为整个肠道的模型。这些模型将用于根据特定的特性寻找有效的营养添加剂，从而减少试验所需的生猪数量。
3-D camera by Sorama. Photo: Henk Riswick
To see what it all led to, a first trial set-up can be viewed in the weaner pig section of the Swine Research Facility: their rooms are full of sensors, buttons, displays and wires – and between 8 and 14 weaner pigs to complement that. Apart from detailed water and feed intake sensors, which can measure intake as well as the time the individual animals take for that, several weaner pens now also have a solid cube installed at the top which contains the hypersensitive 3-D camera for capturing sounds. “We expect roughly 4 to be necessary for the entire section,” Mrs Beerthuis explains.
In addition, a temperature device is hanging in the middle of the room, as well as a conventional camera. “Should there be any problem detected by e.g. the 3-D device, then we can rewind with the camera and try to establish what might have happened.”
Meanwhile the pigs themselves, which will stay in these compartments from weaning at 23/24 days until 10 weeks of age, don’t notice much of it. One group is chasing after the another, while another is lying together, huddled in a corner.
A pig consumes feed while its every move is followed.
Photo: Henk Riswick
In 4 years’ time, the cooperating partners hope to know a lot more in detail about weaner pig behaviour and the development of health and welfare related sustainable precision feed and nutritional additives. Even more sensors will be added during the time of the research, the data science teams of Trouw Nutrition, Noldus and Sorama are well equipped to handle large amounts of data which will lead to an enormous increase in knowledge around the effect of nutritional, behavioural and health related interventions – in case useful outcomes are available, these will be communicated, Mrs Beerthuis says. “We aim for a continued increase of sustainability of the lives of production animals. On top, think of having more research data, a lower carbon footprint, lower ammonia emission levels as well as lower manure production levels per kg produced meat or milk.”
Eventua lly, if all of this comes together, an exciting platform will be created of which the practical application will not only be limited to only the research partners. Mrs Beerthuis says, “It is our goal that eventually also farmers worldwide will be able to benefit from the platform we create.”