An overview of the Poultry Crc’s achievements

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The Poultry CRC commenced operation on 1 July 2003 ending on 30 June 2017. It has been a highly successful CRC, providing solutions to numerous key challenges facing the Australian poultry industry in the areas of research, education, communication, and outreach activities. In brief, it has tremendously enhanced the Australian poultry industrys capacity to travel down the path of sustainable growth well into the future. The following is a succinct summary of its achievements.

Frontier science and state-of-the-art innovations
The Poultry CRC’s investment in over 176 research projects has dealt with many pressing issues for the industry. As just one example demonstrates, the Poultry CRC has established over 30 rapid tests at The University of Melbourne’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, providing industry with a one-stop shop for swift diagnosis and enhanced disease surveillance. Turning to innovations, the Poultry CRC has achieved many breakthroughs, including the discovery of netB, a novel bacterial toxin, which overturned a 30 year dogma that alpha toxin is the causative agent of necrotic enteritis in chickens. At its peak, the Poultry CRC held 57 patents, marking out its leading position in many areas of poultry science around the world.

Future leaders and workforce
The Poultry CRC has supported 16 interns, 25 postdoctoral fellows, 77 postgraduate students, and 33 honours students, as well as hundreds of students who have undertaken our three poultry specific undergraduate courses. These new industry entrants have significantly reduced the skills shortage in the Australian poultry industry that existed when the CRC started, and will be a source of industry leadership and essential skills for many years to come. For example, of our 16 interns, 10 continue to work in industry and 2 in academia. In addition, 22 of our graduates are currently working in the industry and 18 in academia or research. With an additional 30 students still working to complete their degrees, there will be even more graduates entering the poultry industry or poultry related research. Furthermore, our Avian Health Online course conducted through The University of Melbourne has enabled 39 poultry health professionals to upgrade their skills at either a diploma level or a master’s level.

National network with global leverage
The Poultry CRC has constructed a highly effective collaborative network of participant research organisations informed by end-users. The collective expertise of the network generates innovative and unique research initiatives. It solves the problem of critical mass, where no single research institute in Australia has the expertise and facilities to solve the complex scientific and industrial problems the poultry industry will face in the future.

Research challenges
The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme was established in 1990 with the aim of encouraging private sector investment in collaborative research to deliver frontier science and practical solutions to industry problems. It also has a strong education component with a focus on producing graduates with skills relevant to industry needs.

The Poultry CRC successfully secured two terms of funding, with a total operational life of 14 years from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2017. The aim of the first term CRC was “to enhance the competitiveness of the Australian egg and chicken meat industries and supporting industries through the application of strategic programs delivering cost-effective and socially responsible production of safe, quality poultry products for domestic consumption and for emerging export markets”. The objective of the second term CRC was “to help Australia achieve sustainable, ethical poultry production as our population grows.

The Poultry CRC is an industry-driven CRC and as such its research is primarily applied. The nature of applied research is that it creates incremental gains, rather than the quantum leaps that blue sky research produces from time to time. To address highly complex industry challenges, the Poultry CRC put together an integrated program of research, development and education. This involved the majority of end-users and researcher providers in Australia with significant international participation, covering all key facilities and expertise related to the research focus of the CRC. The mature and genuine collaborative network formed as a result has developed a holistic view of the poultry industry’s needs and implemented many effective solutions to them.

CRC 1st Term – Australian Poultry CRC
The Australian Poultry CRC commenced operation on 1 July 2003 with five core participants, Australian Egg Corporation Limited, Bioproperties Pty Ltd, Rural Industries R&D Corporation, The University of Melbourne and University of New England. Most key egg and chicken meat producers were also members of the Australian Poultry CRC. The focus of the Australian Poultry CRC was to increase productivity of the Australian poultry industries through the delivery of solutions in nutrition, vaccines and disease diagnostics, environment and welfare, and education and utilisation. A total of 106 research projects, 27 postgraduate students, 14 honours students, and 12 postdoctoral scientists were supported during the six years. The research projects delivered some lasting solutions to industry. The examples include:

– The use of structural materials in feed to enhance gut health, leading to a paradigm shift in feed processing and presentation;

– Setting up the delivery of a comprehensive set of rapid diagnostics tests for poultry diseases at The University of Melbourne’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health, cutting the time required for disease diagnosis from days to hours and creating a one- stop shop for industry diagnostic service;

– Commercialisation of Vaxsafe PM®, offering a unique live attenuated vaccine for the control of Fowl Cholera due to infection with virulent homologous or heterologous strains of Pasteurella multocida; and

– Production of a comprehensive set of teaching materials for poultry health, welfare, nutrition and environment, leading a solid foundation for delivering vocational education and training for the industry.

CRC 2nd Term Poultry CRC
With overwhelming support from the industry and research partners, we were successful in obtaining a second term of funding for the Poultry CRC, which commenced operation in early 2010. Poultry CRC has three programs, i.e., Health and Welfare, Nutrition and Environment, and Food Safety and Egg Quality.

A total of 71 research projects, 50 postgraduate students, 19 honours students, and 13 postdoctoral scientists were supported in the Poultry CRC. It focussed on addressing practical problems facing the poultry industries, such as production and welfare of free range birds, addressing wet litter problems, identification of the spotty liver pathogen, the use of canola seeds and meals in both layer and broiler diets, minimising avian flu risks, mitigating waste streams, addressing skills shortage and extension. In addition, the Poultry CRC continued the work done previously on a number of vaccines, including:

  • development of an ILTV vaccine as well as live and killed versions of a necrotic enteritis vaccine;
  • investigation of a potential Campylobacter vaccine;
  • extensive evaluation of Salmonella vaccines; and
  • the delivery of an MG vaccine and a haemorrhagic enteritis vaccine for turkeys (both for Minor Use).

Internships, Vet Sector, and Schools program
As the Poultry CRC’s education program was summarised earlier, this section only covers our internship, vocational education and training (VET), and schools programs. In the year 2000, when the idea of submitting a CRC proposal for the poultry industry was first canvassed, one of the common issues identified was the difficulty for the poultry industry to attract veterinarians. In order to help industry with this issue, an industry internship program was introduced shortly after the commencement of the Australian Poultry CRC. Despite establishing the framework, it took five years’ of stellar effort by some of our dedicated industry veterinarians to attract the first interns. As of 2016, the Poultry CRC has attracted 16 interns with 10 of them continuing to work in the industry with an additional 2 working in academia.

Poultry CRC also sponsored the Avian Health Online course at The University of Melbourne. This course enabled 39 poultry health professionals to upgrade their skills to either masters or diploma level. In conjunction with the TAFE NSW New England Institute in Tamworth, the Poultry CRC developed extensive resources for the delivery of VET courses across the country. Employees of many of our industry partners took up training at Certificate III level to further their skills and employment in the poultry industry. In addition, the Teachers’ Resource Kit we produced has been used by nearly a thousand schools throughout Australia.

Furthermore, we have collaborated with the NSW Department of Education to produce “Keeping Poultry in Schools” video series, which have been made available to all schools in Australia via YouTube and other channels. Our “Chicken Embryo Development” animation, which was funded from part of a grant we received from the WPSA for outreach activities, is a standout educational tool with over 2 million views on YouTube.

Utilisation and extension
The Poultry CRC’s approach to research and education is to produce products that are of use to the Australian poultry industry. It was realised from the start that increased utilisation of our research and education outcomes could only come from effective two-way communication between researchers and industry. This is because real solutions are much more likely to arise if researchers start with a clear understanding of the problems the poultry industry faces. Therefore, the Poultry CRC has had a heavy emphasis on end-user involvement in identifying pressing issues, evaluating projects and selecting students. This approach has helped the CRC focus on transferrable projects and intellectual property capable of commercialisation. Thus, in the Poultry CRC, utilisation and extension are viewed as two overarching areas, embedded in as many research and education projects as possible. The Poultry CRC knows that communication underpins its public and industry interface. It places great importance on events like the Australian Poultry Science Symposium, Poultry Information Exchange (PIX), the AECL Industry Forum, and its own Ideas Exchange as these are great forums that facilitate lasting interactions between researchers and industry. Of course, our electronic newsletters (eChook), mailouts (Chook Run; final reports; factsheets), and face-to-face meetings are also important features of the Poultry CRC’s communication strategy.

The Poultry CRC foundation will act as a stable platform from which the next generation industry leaders and scientists the Poultry CRC has produced will drive the industry forward in a sustainable manner. In addition, a transition body, Poultry Hub Australia based at the University of New England, will maintain and expand the collaborative network established by the Poultry CRC to serve our poultry industry’s research and educational needs into the future.

From 2017 Australian Poultry Science Symposium.