An Award-Winning App Cares About Animals in the Country

This application monitors animal behavior to offer insights into their emotions.

Cartoon of farm animals at ease on a farm.

(Shutterstock / romawka)

A new animal welfare mobile application has deservingly won a top prize at the BBC’s 2021 Food and Farming awards this past November. Waitrose & Partners, a UK premium supermarket chain,  and behavioral scientists at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) created an app to help farmers better understand the emotional wellbeing of their animals and here is how the team is using science to care for them. 

This app can nurture animal wellbeing
The app is truly innovative, and is described as being the first app in animal welfare. Developed by leading animal behavioral scientists at SRUC, as part of their Good Life animal welfare project, the mobile app is designed to recognize and record emotional and expressive behaviors in farm animals. This data can then be used to help farmers boost the wellbeing of their animals, according to a news release from Waitrose & Partners.

“Animals have feelings just like humans - they can get stressed or feel joyful. Also like human beings, they are sometimes incredibly difficult to read and it’s only through a process of observation and learning that we can better understand them,” Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder, the research’s lead, says in the news release.   

Assessing animal behaviors can help contribute to their quality of life
Wemelsfelder created the “Qualitative Behavioral Assessment” or QBA method in which animal welfare inspectors record different expressive qualities and behaviors of their animals through the app. They can note when animals are happy and playful or distressed and anxious. The app curates and quantifies the data collected to offer insights into the indicators of an animal’s wellbeing according to a report by FarmingUK. In return the farmers gain a better understanding of their animals during interactions and therefore offer better care

Wemelsfeder knows that experienced farmers are already pretty attuned to their animal’s emotional states and is excited to have the license to develop their app with them.  

“Farmers and stock people who work with animals every day will have already acquired a lot of this understanding over the years, and our app wants to support and build on this,” he says in the news release.

BBC’s Farming for the Future prizewinner
While in trial and development with the farmers of Waitrose, the announcement that the app had won in the BBC’s Farming for the Future category in its Food & Farming awards saw the team feeling elated about their recognition. 

Wemelsfelder attributed the app’s success to the enthusiasm of all the collaborators across the food supply chain who continue to push the app towards fruition. The Professor says in the news release, “for the project to be nominated for this award was a real honor but to win it is fantastic recognition for all the work put in by Waitrose supply farms and field staff, and for everyone who has helped to develop the app.”

The future of farming in the UK and the world
The app is a step in the right direction in animal welfare and the team hopes it will change how the farming sector is managed in the United Kingdom today and even the rest of the world. Animals have feelings and it is important to start recognizing them. Understanding them better can only improve their quality of life and raise the bar in terms of how farmers interact and care for their animals. 


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