Sensor system provides perks for piggeries

New sensor technology could take the grunt work out of managing feed in piggeries, as well as deliver positive economic and environmental outcomes.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and Australian Pork Limited are researching sensor technology that automatically monitors the piggery effluent stream to improve profitability, decrease waste, manage land application and calculate biogas potential.

The technology

The Effluent Monitoring for Management Advice System (EMMAs) includes robust sensor technologies paired with the new generation of low power, single board computers that can provide huge processing capabilities in a small package. This flexible hardware platform is combined with modern data analysis and a website to provide practical advice direct to the end user on a smart phone.

DAF principal scientist Matthew Redding said this robotic system’s sensors can accurately measure the small changes in the proportion of feed being wasted using real-time sensor data from the manure stream, allowing a producer to fine tune feed amounts, feed formulation, and troubleshoot feed milling issues to optimise economic returns.

The EMMAs unit also monitors:

  • surrogate sensor values to predict methane potential of the waste stream to enable better management of piggery biogas digesters
  • data on the nitrogen content of the effluent stream to advise and inform land application practice.

‘This project has involved a substantial development effort targeting a robust and end-user friendly platform for real-time advice,’ Matthew said.

‘We are currently finalising the third prototype and experimentation will be ongoing to generalise the predictive models across a range of piggeries.

‘Results collected to date have been successful for feed waste prediction.’

Benefits for producers

This sensor technology has the potential to significantly increase the profitability of a farm.

‘Each 1% decrease in feed waste equates to around $17 000/year saving for a 500-sow piggery,’ Matthew said.

‘Feed waste values of around 5% are common, indicating the cost saving can be significant.

‘Considering feed costs are 60% of the running costs of a pig enterprise, this type of technology has the potential to be a game changer.’

Next steps

The development of the EMMAs technology platform is now complete and will be trialled on commercial farms.

The technology has the potential to be applied to other applications in agriculture and industry. Prospective research targets are currently being considered.

Contact: Dr Matthew Redding via email at
Partners: Australian Pork Limited
Location: Toowoomba
Industries: Pork
Tech type: Sensors

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Last updated: 08 Feb 2023