Tomas Norton
KU Leuven


``A practical approach on innovative tools to improve pig production``



Tomas Norton is leading a research group in Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) in the Division of Animal and Human and Health Engineering (group of M3-BIORES) at the KU Leuven. He holds a PhD in Biosystems Engineering from University College Dublin (Ireland) and is a Fellow of both the Institute of Agricultural Engineers (FIAgrE) and the International Academy of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (FiAABE). His current research focus is on PLF applications, focussing on modelling and monitoring of animal responses for improved welfare, health and productivity. He is PI and co-PI on collaborative National and International projects funded by the Belgium government, H2020 and USA. He is author of 80+ SCI publications, 50+ conference proceedings, 10 book chapters and co-editor of one book. He has given 20+ keynotes/invited presentations on his research. Currently he is co-coordinator of courses on Measuring, Modelling and Managing Bio-responses and Sustainable PLF at the KU Leuven. Since 2018 he is Chair of Section 2 of International Commission of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (CIGR). He also acts as Editor-in-Chief at the Elsevier journal Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. He is a series editor for the upcoming Springer Nature Book Series: Smart Animal Production and Springer Nature Encyclopedia of Smart Agricultural Technologies.


While the consumption of meat and animal-derived products in the EU has plateaued in recent years, the demand for such foods is still increasing on a worldwide level. This has in turn led to expansion of the meat sectors globally. However, the environmental impact of the pig production sector has particularly constrained expansion in the EU. As a consequence, topics on the health and well-being of farm animals and the sustainability of farm management practices are common targets of public discourse. Data driven technologies within the framework of Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) can be considered part of the solution towards addressing the sustainability challenges in the pig production sector. PLF systems are information oriented technologies typically comprising sensors, technology for data exchange as well management systems in an aim to provide decision support to the animal producer/caretaker. Although a large number of technologies have been already developed for the assessment of welfare principles, housing and climate conditions, feed and water availability, health and appropriate behaviour, the translation to functioning technologies is limited. Furthermore, there are quite a limited number of research technologies that are externally validated, which has the consequence of limiting commercial adoption. This talk will look to how PLF can be practically implemented on farms and the limitations and pitfalls in translating research into functioning solutions.