Knowledge exchange projects at ARU Writtle

At ARU in Writtle, we're undertaking a range of projects linked to our expertise in agriculture and crop production; animal health, welfare and behaviour; and strength and conditioning.

All these projects gained support from Research England.

At a glance

  • Our land-based and animal teams are working with industry partners to establish a pig behaviour and welfare centre, research sow nutrition and use vertical farming to produce high-quality, disease-free propagules.
  • We are researching the production of invertebrates for animal feed, working towards decreasing injury risk in sport dogs, and establishing a video library for pet behaviour and training professionals.
  • We're proud to be supporting behavioural change in at-risk youths through engagement in physical activity.

Establishing a pig behaviour and welfare innovation centre

Two piglets

Lead applicants: Dr Jon Amory and Isabel Lewis

The new Pig Behaviour and Welfare Innovation Centre at Writtle will be based on video monitoring and data capture of pigs at two key production stages: post weaning and sows in gestation. The camera system will be important for promoting postgraduate and industry-sponsored research on our campus farm.

The 64-channel Network Video Recorder (NVR) will provide capacity for future camera provision on the farm for other pig buildings and the lambing facilities that are also potential research resources.

Enabling future sow nutrition

Group of sows rummaging in straw

Lead academics: Dr Sife Chikunya, Nieky van Veggel and Dr Jon Amory

In partnership with Kemin Industries, we're researching a probiotic product range to promote gastrointestinal health and general welfare in pigs.

This multidisciplinary project builds on previous investment in nutrition research for the first stage growing accommodation that was part funded by Kemin, and allows for detailed investigation of dietary effects on sow performance and the performance litters.

The project will include the installation of a new electronic sow feeder with an automatic weighing module, the first of its kind in the UK.

Developing the production of invertebrates for feed

Dr Eleanor Drinkwater and Dr Christos Gerofotis

Lead academics: Dr Eleanor Drinkwater and Dr Christos Gerofotis

To ensure food security for the world's growing population, innovative solutions need to be explored. Making adoption of insect farming for animal feed accessible by farmers would increase financial and ecological sustainability. We aim to install an invertebrate unit at Writtle, consult with the wider industry on best practice, and build collaboration with external industry partners.

Production of high-quality, disease-free propagules

Dr Kambiz Baghalian in small LED vertical farming unit

Lead academic: Dr Kambiz Baghalian

This is a research proposal based on an ongoing Knowledge Transfer Collaboration project, which has received funded from EIRA.

The project is carried out with external partners, iGrowing, Hugh Lowe Farms, Palmstead Nurseries and external academic advisor Professor Tracy Lawson. It will investigate the energy efficiency of the Solar/Off-grid DC Based Power Technology of iGrowing Technogym in comparison with state-of-the-art technology available in the market. To do this, we'll be growing a wider range of crops to challenge the technology and identify lessons for the further development of vertical farming.

Establishing a video library for pet behaviour and training professionals

ARU researcher Debbie Emmerson training a dog

Lead academics: Debbie Emmerson and Dr Jon Amory

The pet industry needs academic support to train the next generation of practitioners and assist in provided CPD opportunities for those already in practice, so that they can gain experience and progress towards becoming registered practitioners.

We will create film behaviour consultation videos to show a range of practitioners and behaviour problems. This will include filming dog training classes to cover a range of instructors and class types, and disseminating information to practitioner organisations.

Research and community awareness working towards decreasing injury risk in sport dogs

A spaniel standing with motion tracking points attached

Lead academic: Dr Roberta Ferro de Godoy

This project will identify injury risk factors which impact sports dog welfare in the UK, particularly flyball and agility. Research will take place in collaboration with the British Flyball Association and The Kennel Club to decrease injuries in flyball and agility dogs through biomechanics research and the delivery of training and workshops.

For flyball, the research will compare kinematic and kinetic data from dogs using five different angulations of flyball box, which will then be used in conjunction with other interlinked studies to ascertain which box angulation may be deemed safest for canine competitors. On the agility side, the interest is to analyse kinematics and kinetics linked with the A-frame obstacle, always with the objective of identifying high demands and creating recommendations to decrease injury.

Behavioural change in at-risk youths through engagement in physical activity

Mark Williams seated in a gym

Lead academic: Mark Williams

Reach Every Generation Ltd works with children and adolescents who have been excluded from school, are involved in juvenile crime, and are at risk of violence and drug abuse. This project will provide means to inspire and engage the young mentees through physical activity in the form of strength and conditioning training. Mark Williams, who is a qualified professional strength and conditioning coach, will deliver training sessions.