Technology which allows producers to see, hear and even smell inside their poultry sheds without stepping foot inside them could be the next step in managing bird health and welfare.
Derbyshire poultry producer David Speller said immersive technology could be commonplace in poultry sheds within a matter of years, helping farmers and their staff monitor their birds without having to be on the farm.
Speaking at the Pig and Poultry Fair in Warwickshire, Mr Speller said virtual-reality headsets costing just a few hundred pounds could be linked up to camera systems to allow users to look around a room in real-time to identify any problems.
With simple audio equipment installed in sheds, farm staff would also be able to hear what was going on remotely. And as technology develops, electronic noses could also be installed which will allow producers to “smell” inside a shed and pick up any issues – reducing biosecurity risks associated with staff moving between sheds or not following proper sanitation measures in an emergency.
Mr Speller, who manages more than 2.5million chickens across 10 farms, already uses a host of technology on his units, including underfloor heaters, cameras to track bird movement and microphones to identify if birds are unwell or in distress.
He said technology was helping him manage his business more holistically and tackle risks before they became a serious issue.