UQ joins €13m project to bring technology to livestock sector

14 December 2023

Animal welfare has become a fundamental aspect of livestock production, but assessing the condition of dairy cows and pigs remains a challenge.

The 13 million EU-funded ClearFarm pilot project intends to use Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) technology to increase animal welfare throughout the entire production chain.

PLF involves the integration of sensors, automation, and monitoring systems to gather real-time information on animal health, behaviour, and environmental conditions. ClearFarm will collect this data for producers and consumers.

ClearFarm Platform diagram
ClearFarm Platform

In time, consumers can scan a QR code on the product they want to purchase and find out everything about it – from delivery times to information on the animal’s life on the grazing farm.

ClearFarm is the result of close collaboration between 6 universities and research centres, 5 small and medium enterprises, and 3 large food production companies. The University of Queensland (UQ) is the only non-European collaborator. 

Animal conservation physiologist Dr Edward Narayan is the UQ academic link for UK-based Universities Federation of Animal Welfare. In 2020, ClearFarm invited him to collaborate based on his animal welfare expertise. 

“Sensors that provide data on soil quality, antibiotics used or not used, farmers’ lands and consumer interests all form the backbone of ClearFarm,” Dr Narayan said.  

“I use this kind of data all the time, collected separately and from different sources, in my work on the Australian climate’s impact on our native animals and livestock such as assessing sheep stress from the cellular quality of their wool.

“The ClearFarm data works across one platform allowing a web check status of animals, and early warning signals of welfare problems. I would love to see this animal welfare accountability adopted in Australia.”

Dr Narayan said the technology enables consumers to answer a range of questions such as, ‘did this meat come from a well-cared for animal’ and ‘is my purchase contributing to global warming?’ 

“With ClearFarm, consumers can know the welfare history of their purchases, which is something I am passionate about,” Dr Narayan said.

Last year, Dr Narayan visited one of the project’s collaborators, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), to engage with researchers and students to develop a new collaboration on animal welfare. Areas of research focus include objective measures of whole-animal physiology and behaviour using sheep, cattle, and pigs as model species. 

Dr Narayan’s engagement on the ClearFarm project and UAB colleagues led to forming UQ’s collaboration with startup company, Animal Welfare Education Centre (AWEC) Advisors. 

AWEC strives to enhance the sustainability of livestock production, foster the human-animal bond, and contribute to biodiversity conservation by advocating for animal welfare. Their educational initiatives are research-led and emphasise a hands-on approach, encompassing courses, workshops, webinars, and an array of technical documents. AWEC also provides scientific and technical guidance, along with an innovation and research service, to advance animal welfare practices.

Dr Narayan as guest academic for AWEC postgraduate students at UAB Spain
Dr Narayan teaching AWEC postgraduate students at UAB Spain. Image: supplied.

Dr Narayan aims to use the principles of AWEC as a blueprint for future programs in Australia. 

His commitment, alongside his UAB colleagues in Spain, extends to providing scientific and technical guidance, coupled with an innovation and research service, to propel advancements in animal welfare practices within the Australian context. This endeavour seeks to not only align with AWEC's successful model, but also tailor it to the unique needs and challenges of the Australian landscape, fostering a comprehensive and impactful approach to animal welfare advocacy.

The next ambitious aim is to bring the models of ClearFarm and AWEC to Australia and conduct proof-of-concept projects locally.


The ClearFarm project has many collaborators, with UQ it’s only non-EU collaborator:
ClearFarm logoWageningen University and Eshuis (Netherlands)
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Covap and ELPozo (Spain)
Università degli Studi di Milano (UniMi) (Italy)
Aarhus University and dol-sensors (Denmark)
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Hämeenlinnan Osuusmeijeri dairy (Finland)
Herd-itt: Every cattle counts (Israel)

The European Union’s Horizon 2020 program funded the ClearFarm pilot project from 2020-2024.