National Taiwan University (NTU) researchers are working on a project to improve hog farming efficiency, hoping to help farmers eradicate odor pollution, the team said yesterday.
The nation’s hog farming industry generates annual revenues of at least NT$70 billion (US$2.49 billion) and the quality of local pork is widely considered good, Stone Ding (丁詩同), a professor in NTU’s Department of Animal Science and Technology, told a news conference in Taipei.
However, environmental pollution remains a major concern, he said.
To promote the application of technology in farming, the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018 launched a program with NT$2 billion in funding over four years, said Ding, a former deputy executive secretary of Executive Yuan’s Board of Science and Technology.
As part of the project, the team of nine professors is seeking to help farmers reduce waste and pollution, Ding said.
Microbiological research, and information and communications technology tools play key roles in solving the problems, he said.
To make pig excrement less smelly, the team added cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound that gives cinnamon its smell, and essential oils to pig feed, and found that the additives improved the animals’ digestion and minimized the production of ammonia, a byproduct of their protein metabolism, Ding said.
The researchers also developed precision microbial agents as feed supplements, which were found to accelerate the animals’ growth, while reducing bad gut microbiota, such as Clostridium perfringens, he said.
It usually takes six months for a pig to grow to 110kg or 120kg, when it is sent to the slaughterhouse, said Chen Ming-ju (陳明汝), another professor at the department.
Pigs fed with the microbial agents grew to that weight two weeks faster than expected, she said.
Saving farmers two weeks of pork feed, the additives would help them farm more efficiently, Chen said.
The team also developed a system, featuring mobile sensors and cameras to be installed in pig pens, to collect data on carbon dioxide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which cause foul smell, as well as data on airborne particulate matter, temperature and humidity.
With the image recognition tools, farmers can remotely monitor the pigs’ movements around the clock, estimate their growth and adjust their feed supply when necessary, he said.
The team also developed smart wastewater disposal and methane desulfuration systems equipped with remote monitoring tools, he said.
These tools can also reduce human interference where transmissions of disease might occur, Ding said.
The techniques have been tested at three farms with nearly 3,000 pigs in total, Ding said, hoping to promote the tools to more farms nationwide.
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