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Poultry industry report shines light on skills needs for the Information Age

Posted 21 June 2017

"Within the report I’ve pointed out the likelihood of an increasing labour shortage, at least in the next five to eight years, which, when coupled with other issues facing the industry, should be a cause for concern and action.”

L:R Peel Holroyd, Chairman of the Harper Adams University Temperton Fellowship for Poultry Research and Dr David Llewellyn

The challenge of recruiting and retaining young, tech-savvy talent in the poultry industry was at the centre of the 25th and final Temperton Fellowship for Poultry Research report, presented by the Harper Adams University vice-chancellor Dr David Llewellyn.

He said: “It is inevitable that rapid advances in technology seen in other walks of life will impact on the poultry industry. The industry must be ready to adapt to this change, to continue to improve domestic business performance and to maintain its standing on the world stage.

“The industry will need to maintain outstanding levels of husbandry and welfare, but it must also fill a gap that is likely to emerge in the capacity of its leaders and managers to handle new technologies.

“The advent of ‘Industry 4.0’ heralds a series of unique opportunities and challenges. The way in which computers and automation will drive production processes, inform decision making and even take over some aspects of decision making through the use of artificial intelligence will have far reaching consequences for future labour and skills requirements.

“There has been a constant issue of getting young people to think about entering the poultry industry. Problems with the recruitment of students to poultry courses have been reported as far back as the mid-1970s. Many issues, and recommendations, identified in the report hold striking resemblance to those seen in earlier research. We should have done something by now. I’m not saying that the industry hasn’t done anything at all, but that we need a more co-ordinated response. For example, academia and industry need to work closer together to streamline the information provided to young people about industry careers. There are many sources of information, but I don’t believe young people know about them all.

“Chief among my recommendations was the need to secure the next generation of poultry scientists who will be able to guide the industry through a period of considerable change in areas such as poultry business management, food product development/food safety, poultry informatics, poultry technologies, poultry process design and poultry behaviour.

“While researching for this study, I looked back at the previous Temperton Fellowship reports to see what they told us about industry priorities and preoccupations over the last 25 years. These views were supplemented by a series of interviews with industry and academic representatives, conducted in 2016 and 2017. The interviews provided further viewpoints on how technology might impact upon the industry and how poultry business leaders need to ensure that they are ready for such developments. Within the report I’ve pointed out the likelihood of an increasing labour shortage, at least in the next five to eight years, which, when coupled with other issues facing the industry, should be a cause for concern and action.”

The report looked into a number of the new technologies which could have a big impact on the poultry industry. These included the use of sensors, better management of housing environments and ways to monitor and manage animal welfare. In addition, the report highlighted the development in the USA of meat produced from animal cells, with the announcement, in March, of the first chicken products.

Dr Llewellyn added: “While the public’s view of such products is not yet known, and they remain extremely expensive, there is little doubt that the company will aim to reduce the price, making it imperative that poultry producers look to ways to use technology to make their production methods more efficient whilst also ensuring that they remain acceptable to consumers.”

The Temperton Fellowship was established to commemorate the contribution of Dr Harold Temperton, Director of the National Institute of Poultry Husbandry at Harper Adams University from 1951 -1974.

It is financed by the accrued annual interest from the Temperton Trust investments, which are derived from contributions and donations, as well as proceeds from sales of the book - The History of the National Institute of Poultry Husbandry by ME Telford, PH Holroyd and RG Wells, published by Harper Adams University, September 1986.

Dr Llewellyn’s full report can be obtained by emailing Allison Haycox.

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