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Dalhousie's HCFAI Webinar ~ Pioneering the Future of Digital Animal Farming

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on June 18, 2024 in News

Dalhousie University recently hosted a transformative webinar on Human-Computer Farm Animal Interactions (HCFAI) on June 3, 2024.

Organized by Professor Suresh Neethirajan, this event marked a pivotal moment in merging digital innovation with animal care.

Over 150 attendees from various stakeholders worldwide from 18 countries gathered to explore how cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing animal welfare and farm operations.

Keynote Insights ~ Animal Welfare in Smart Farming

The webinar began with an inspiring keynote by Professor Marian Dawkins from Oxford University, UK. Her address, titled "How to Put Animal Welfare into Smart Farming?" highlighted the immense potential of farm technology to improve animal welfare, while cautioning against compromising care for efficiency. Dr. Dawkins outlined three key strategies to ensure technology benefits animal welfare:

Adopting a publicly supported welfare definition: one that is adaptable to automated measurements.

Highlighting common ground between welfare and efficiency: For example, reduced mortality rates benefit both animals and farm productivity.

OrganizingdData into curated data banks: similar to those used in human medicine, these can drive significant improvements in animal welfare.

Exploring Human-Farm Animal Dynamics

Dr. Xavier Boivin from INRAE France provided a compelling session on "Relational Practices in Human-Farm Animal Dynamics in Digital Farming."

He delved into how past interactions shape human-farm animal relationships and the profound impact of emerging technologies and mechanization on these dynamics.

Ethical Design in Animal-Computer Interaction

Dr. Clara Mancini from Open University, UK, focused on "Ethical Design in Animal-Computer Interaction." She discussed the growing responsibility to ensure that interactive systems designed for animals, powered by the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, are both ethical and engaging.

Advancing Livestock Production Technology

Dr. Désirée Gellatly from Olds College, Alberta, Canada, highlighted the importance of accessible technology in livestock production. Her session explored how digital tools are revolutionizing farm management and enhancing animal welfare.

Holistic Perspectives from Veterinary Social Work

Dr. Elizabeth Strand from the University of Tennessee, USA, shared unique insights in her session "Perspectives on HCFAI from a Veterinary Social Worker." She discussed the intersection of animal welfare, digital innovation, and social work, providing a comprehensive view of the implications of technology on farm animal care.

Dynamic Panel Discussion

The event concluded with an engaging panel discussion featuring industry leaders,

Shari Van de Pol, Founder and CEO of CATTLEytics, Canada
Kelly Somerville, Industry Services Manager at LRIC-Guelph
Kris Pettit, Dairy Producer at Mistyglen Creamery, Ontario, Canada

The panelists engaged in a robust dialogue about the ethical alignment of technology in farming, exploring whether it genuinely enhances animal welfare or primarily serves to increase productivity.

The webinar was well-received, with attendees expressing appreciation for the depth and breadth of the topics covered. It marked a significant step forward in the integration of technology and animal welfare, fostering meaningful dialogue among experts from various disciplines.


This event exemplifies Dalhousie's commitment to advancing agricultural practices through innovative research and cross-disciplinary collaboration. As we continue to explore the transformative potential of digital animal farming, we look forward to further engaging with our community to drive positive change in animal welfare and farm operations.


Link for full video of the HCFAI webinar -