The Internet of Turkeys: Smart Ag on the Rise at the Poultry Farm

This November, remember to give thanks to the IoT technologies that improve turkey production. From operational management to disease detection, IoT and artificial intelligence technologies help drive efficiencies in farming.


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Image credit: Hendrix Genetics, an MTech Systems partner

As we sit down for a Thanksgiving feast this year, many of us will give thanks for friends and family, our health, and the food on our tables. For those in charge of providing that food, planning starts long before the holiday. Growing Thanksgiving turkeys starts in January when farmers order the poults that will become their flock, and many farmers have integrated IoT technologies and software management systems to help them ensure we have a tasty bird on our tables come November.

A perfect bird is plump, tender, and juicy, but getting there is not an easy path. Turkey growth is impacted by environmental factors and biosecurity issues. Temperature needs to remain between 70°-79° F—higher temps can cause heat exhaustion and lead to stunted growth. Restricted access is required, so turkeys aren’t exposed to harmful bacteria. 

IoT sensors can monitor temperature, humidity, and ventilation, along with access points, flock health, feeding, and other factors that influence growth. Collecting that data in a farming management application allows producers to track changes and make data-driven decisions to improve operations.

The challenge is bringing a high-tech solution to the outdoor expanse of a farm. Turkey enclosures can be huge and are often distant from the farm’s operational office. To deploy technology effectively, farmers need a cloud-based system that relies on edge-based computing. Many farmers are deploying Low Power WAN (LPWAN)-enabled sensors and sensor hubs to monitor the issues critical to raising turkeys. That data is collected by IoT gateways and transmitted to the cloud for easy access and analysis.

Farming From Edge to Cloud

One solution provider, Lanner Electronics has a series of IoT gateways that can be deployed on farms. In fact, the company has joined the Farm of the Future initiative to showcase the use of edge compute technology in rural applications. The endeavor, which includes Trilogy Networks and the Rural Cloud Initiative, projects farmers will see operational efficiencies and profits climb 10 percent.

The Lanner LEC-7230 is a small, fanless, embedded box PC that operates as an IoT gateway. Based on either the Intel® Atom® processor or Intel® Celeron® processor, it collects and processes data, which can be sent to the cloud. When linked to a smart farming application, growers can view data, manage environment control devices, and generate real-time reports and alerts.

Screen images showing poultry data

Image credit: MTech Systems

MTech Systems offers poultry-specific Web-based management applications that allow farmers to monitor the status of their flock and health attributes. Designed for small and medium-sized operations, the Amino app monitors progress from the hatchery to production and can scale from flock to house to farm. 

The management software tracks feed orders, inventory, animal health, production costs, and can be tied to the supply chain, so farmers can see how changes in the supply chain will impact operations. It also analyzes performance metrics and operational costs, then uses machine learning to forecast and suggest ways to improve efficiency, control costs, and boost profitability. Data is viewed on customizable dashboards through a Web browser.

From Data to Diagnosis

By 2050, the average farm will collect more than 4.1 million data points using IoT and other digital technologies. The use of artificial intelligence will help improve operations and might even prevent or eliminate loss from disease.

According to researchers at the Poultry Health Research Network at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, technology can be used to analyze flocks for symptoms of infectious disease or respiratory illness. Using a combination of audio, imaging, and other sensors, poultry producers can detect changes in an animal’s normal characteristics, such as altered movement, body temperature, or breathing patterns, which could indicate illness or distress.

The real-time capture and reporting of this data enables rapid detection and could even trigger subsequent actions, such as automatically adjusting ventilation systems, to reduce the likelihood of a potential outbreak. In the future, similar technologies could be used to lower the use of antibiotics in poultry farms.

IoT devices will likely become more common as farmers face pressure to produce more food efficiently. The ability to monitor production and operational performance also levels the playing field for smaller farmers competing against large commercial producers. 


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