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Chickenshack blues

作者:张盯    发布时间:2019-03-07 01:18:03    

By Duncan Graham-Rowe CHICKENS grow stronger and meatier when they don’t spend all their time huddled together in the corner of their sheds. So to encourage a more active lifestyle, a team from the north of Britain has developed a computerised chicken watcher that ensures they make full use of the available space. The problem is that broiler chickens—those reared for meat—often huddle together, says Roger Boyle, a computer scientist at the University of Leeds. In the crush, birds can suffer broken bones. “So farmers encourage them to move about,” says Boyle. This also strengthens their leg muscles. Chicken farmers are therefore faced with the expense of employing someone to do the mind-bogglingly boring job of watching the birds just to keep them moving. The alternative solution, hatched in conjunction with Michael Forbes of the department of animal physiology and nutrition at Leeds, is to use cameras to track their movements within the shed. Boyle has previously worked on systems that track cars and people, but he says tracking chickens is an especially tough problem. They tend to stay still for long periods, making it hard to distinguish the outlines of individual birds: “If five sit down next to each other it looks just like a massive clump of feathers,” says Boyle. The Leeds team has developed an image recognition system that is able to pinpoint individual birds within a group of them. They do this by imaging many birds, then establishing an outline image of an “average” fluffy chicken in software. This lets the computer guess when the birds are all flocking to one spot in the shed. And when they do crowd together, the computer automatically changes the lighting or opens a food trap elsewhere, encouraging them to move around. The project is being funded by Britain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Dairy cows are also in Boyle’s sights. Today’s robotic milking systems mean that it’s possible for a cow to be lame for several days before anybody notices. Boyle’s tracking system can spot lame cows earlier,

 

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