UTIA breaks ground on cutting-edge commercial broiler research facility

The University of Tennessee AgResearch Center (UTIA) plans to open a new commercial broiler chicken facility at its Spring Hill education center by 2025 to conduct cutting-edge poultry industry research.

The UT AgResearch and Education Center in Spring Hill is known for precision beef cattle production, vibrant fruit orchards, row crops, and forage. More than 1,200 acres of experimental crops, and now, add broiler chicken work to the mix.

Poultry farming in Tennessee is a $10 billion-a-year business with increased production expected. UTIA and UT System leaders recently broke ground on a new broiler facility.

“It’s to be built on this land, previously used for crops – and will feature four 600-foot long buildings, with an adjacent laboratory for research,” said Kevin Thompson. “We’re going to have a state-of-the-art lab associated with those houses that will be able to capture multiple, multiple data points related to temperature, water, air flow – cameras throughout each of those facilities to capture images of those chicks when they arrive, all the way up to through the end of production when they’ll be picked up.”

And picking the chicks up is corporate partner, Tyson Foods – the world’s second-largest processor and marketer for chicken. Tyson will provide the chicks and their feed.

“We’ve been needing this for a long time,” said Shane Joyner with Tyson. “There are lots of other states with the same type of research development going on. But, at the end of the day, it’s going to be exciting. We’re proud to be part of it.”

Tennessee ranks 15th in the nation in broiler production. We have more than 2200 commercial chicken houses, and 40,000 people employed in this industry across the state. Tennessee’s poultry sector has the current capacity to process more than 8 million birds per week. This new facility in Spring Hill is expected to add to that number significantly.

UT AgResearch and its partners will monitor 160,000 birds for movement, temperature, feed and water use, body weight, and lighting. The work is to ensure more welfare-oriented environments, enhancing production for the industry.

“We already have some projects lined up in the area of automation, of looking at the flock health, animal welfare, well-being,” said Hongwei Xin. “For example, how do we monitor the mobility of the birds?”

UT AgResearch expects this facility to be operational by fall 2025. The goal is to be the premier commercial broiler research unit in the country and to support the industry so that Tennessee grows even more as a poultry state.

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