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Innovate UK awards for studies into sustainable livestock production and improving chicken welfare

17 August 2018

Bristol Vet School has been awarded two Innovate UK grants totalling nearly £160,000 for studies that aim to further our progress towards sustainable livestock production and improve broiler chicken welfare. The projects will use the new £1 million CIEL poultry house, funded by the CIEL.

Dr Andy Butterworth, Reader in Farm Animal Science, will lead the £100,000 Bristol component of a £403,000 study entitled 'Lighting for Broiler Enhanced Welfare and Commercial Output'. This collaborative project, involving Bristol researchers, Campden BRI and Greengate Lighting, aims to further develop and tests the first ever bio-adaptive, circadian, smart lighting system for broiler chickens that will recreate the properties of natural daylight.
Around 65 billion chickens are reared globally every year for meat and eggs, the vast majority in completely enclosed, carefully managed, bio-secure environments. A key aspect of creating a suitable indoor environment for poultry is light.

Research has demonstrated measurable effects of light colour on animals, including changing food intake, delaying sexual maturity and influencing behaviours, such as fear and aggression, light is also vital for maintaining circadian (day-night) rhythm.

Current industry standard lighting is white LEDs with dim-to-blue or dim-to-red. However, these lights exhibit strong spectral (colour) peaks, so do not replicate natural daylight, offer no adaptive control opportunities and are based on extrapolation of limited scientific research. This project aims to validate an innovative bio-adaptive, circadian, smart lighting system.

Dr Andy Butterworth, Poultry specialist research lead at the University of Bristol, said: “As the industry has grown, so too have consumer concerns for animal welfare. Natural daylight, while the ideal, is not practical in all parts of the modern farming industry. Lighting has been demonstrated to impact productivity and welfare in the poultry industry but only day length and intensity are currently regulated to minimum standards. This project aims to achieve a step-change in lighting for animal husbandry, enhancing productivity and animal welfare in the food production industry, in the UK and globally.”

Professor John Tarlton, Professor of Regenerative Medicine, will lead a £60,000 part of a £571,000 Innovate UK funded project that will examine the feasibility of on-farm production of insect larvae from food waste to be used as a feed component for chickens.

Professor Tarlton said: “The global population is expected to increase to nearly 10 billion by 2050. Alongside other problems of climate change and reduced agricultural land availability, feeding the world’s population is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

“Insects are one of the most efficient converters of protein and are able to do this from non-human edible food waste, a resource, totalling 1.3 billion tonnes each year. Unfortunately, most people in the world are reluctant to eat insects. However, chickens, the world’s greatest producers of animal protein for human consumption, have no such sensibilities. Indeed, they are enthusiastic consumers of insects. The aim of the study is to assess nutritional, health and welfare outcomes in chickens which aims to advance progress towards sustainable livestock production, with an emphasis on animal health and welfare.”

The project forms part of the School’s Global Food Security research priority.

Further information

About CIEL
CIEL is one of the UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres established as a key pillar of the government’s Agri-Tech Strategy.  They are funded through Innovate UK, the UK’s strategic innovation agency, and are a partnership between industry and academia.

CIEL works with 12 of the UK’s leading livestock research institutions, including SRUC, and a group of industry Members spanning the entire food supply chain from farmers to processors and retailers.  CIEL aims to use these collaborative partnerships to enhance and accelerate business-led innovation, as well as inspire and identify opportunities that could lead to the development of new products, services and techniques that can benefit the entire supply chain. More information can be found at:

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK helps businesses to identify the commercial potential in new technologies and turn them into the new products and services that will generate economic growth and increase productivity. For further information and to stay updated on our latest news visit, follow us on Twitter at @innovateuk or subscribe to our YouTube channel at

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