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Pig Grading System Wins OFC/RASE Practice

by 5m Editor
9 January 2012, at 9:48am

UK - The winner of the 2012 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC)/ Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) Practice with Science Award sponsored by AB Agri, has been won by PiGIS, a pig grading information system established in Northern Ireland (NI) by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and CAFRE.

The researchers behind the project, Dr Mark Hawe from CAFRE, Erica Chisholm from AFBI and Mark Browne from AFBI, will share 310,000 in prize money which the team plans to invest in further developments to the system. The team will give a paper on the project at the next Oxford Farming Conference being held from 3-5 January 2012.

"PiGIS was one of 15 very high quality entries received in this, the first year of the award," explained Professor Bill McKelvey, the OFC Director coordinating the award and one of the judges. "The award was established to recognise applied scientific work that has resulted in valuable benefits to the agricultural industry and this project has achieved just that."

PiGIS is a unique online benchmarking tool that assists both pig producers and processors to improve carcase quality. The system captures data for over 99 per cent of pigs slaughtered in NI, including carcase quality data. PiGIS facilitates benchmarking comparisons with "the best of the rest" in the industry allowing weaknesses in carcase quality to be identified and enabling informed management decisions to be implemented to improve quality and, in turn, income.

"The UK agricultural industry is under constant pressure to continuously review and improve its farming systems," said AB Agri’s Head of Marketing, Sarah Hemming. "When we decided to sponsor this award we were hopeful that we would uncover some truly innovative work that was having a real impact on farmer profitability and performance. What we found was a team of people working collaboratively, gathering complex data and harnessing new technology to achieve great results. We are delighted that PIGI’s has won and are even more pleased that the prize money will be used to further develop this system."

The runner up was a smart phone application (‘app’) based on the CropMonitor wheat disease information service developed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) in York and entered by researcher Moray Taylor.

Commenting on the project, Professor McKelvey said: "The smart phone ‘app’ was very impressive - it provides an innovative way for growers, agronomy advisors, industry professionals and students to access real-time information on seasonal risks of wheat diseases across England.

"The ‘app’ uses data from the CropMonitor information service currently available online to alert users to disease severities for the four major foliar diseases of wheat – Septoria leaf blotch, powdery mildew, brown rust and yellow rust."

In third place was a project entered by Peter Wilkins from IBERS, Aberystwyth University on improving the sustainability of UK grassland by utilising genetic variation within and between improved grass populations.

Commenting on the award, Denis Chamberlain, Chief Executive of RASE said: "The inaugural Practice with Science Award has drawn excellent entries from throughout the UK and across the spectrum of technical agricultural challenges. The Society’s Practice with Science motto acknowledges that scientific discovery only realises its value when it gets into practical farmers’ hands. This competition focuses attention at that key area of knowledge transfer and the winner exemplifies just what is needed to encourage smarter farming."