AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program researcher spotlight: Dr Gareth Forde

11.05.20

This month we’re shining the research torch on Dr Gareth Forde, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Queensland University of Technology and Managing Director and Principal Engineer of All Energy Pty Ltd and farmenergy.tech.

Dr Forde’s project, funded by the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program, investigated energy cost reductions for broiler farms via renewable energy and embedded generation.

The chicken meat industry has many opportunities to capitalise on chicken meat’s modest environmental footprint and to further reduce its environmental impacts. A key objective of the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program is to develop and implement measures to improve industry’s impact on the environment.

This project aimed to update the industry’s understanding of renewable technology and its feasibility on-farm, increasing adoption and reducing operational costs, emissions and improving bird welfare in an economically viable way.

This project captured decades of energy market and engineering knowledge and placed it into a simple-to-use free tool for everyone. It is not a design or full quotation tool, but an options analysis for how PV solar, batteries and solar thermal, using dry heat exchangers can reduce costs via renewable energy on Australian chicken farms.

Why is this research project important?

Sometimes the world is more complex than it needs to be. We set out to simplify energy options and found that useful information can be provided without the need for someone to enter any data at all. For a particular type of business, such as a broiler farm, the main energy inputs of electricity and heating fuel can be correlated to key business metrics, such as the number of sheds.

So, we built a tool that has an shed scenario “pre-loaded” tool so you can simply view the energy options for a “typical” facility. The accuracy can be improved by entering more data such as different number of sheds, shed length, shed width, geographic location, and then defining what type of solar/battery system you are interested in or the current fuel that you use. The aim is to provide broiler operations with “instant renewable energy options”.

Why did you get involved in the project?

Steve Baxter [of Shark Tank fame] said recently that “software is eating the world”. So, we can either wait for someone overseas to build these digital tools or we can build them right here in Australia. There is a uniqueness to how Australians solve problems which means you can’t just take something that has worked in the US, Canada or Europe and hope it works in this country. You need a nuanced understanding of how an energy device can solve an economic and technical problem and we have aimed to “codify” what we know as engineers into this digital tool. We found that there was a bottle neck on energy knowledge, so we wanted to capture all the complexities of energy in a straight forward way so anyone could interact and receive information.

How will this research benefit the chicken meat industry? Are there any learnings beyond this industry?

We springboarded off a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) project for feedlots, processors and producers, (see www.myenergy.tech), to build farmenergy.tech for boiler operations. We can build more “modules” for any new technology or technology such as electric quad bikes or ATVs, waste tonnage estimation and options [composting, windrowing, digestion, waste to energy, etc], power factor correction, voltage optimization, the list is endless. This digital tool could be used for any business model where a key business metric correlates with costs (energy, water, waste inputs). For example, it could include layers, organic digestion to biogas, solar to water. Electric vehicles and water fuel cells for the transport industry and or the municipal waste to energy.

What’s the best piece of professional/career advice you’ve ever been given?

If you bite off more than you can chew, start chewing harder.

And from Elon Musk: “Read and ask questions”. So do you have a question for me? Have a look at the website and let me know what you think, or, if we can improve anything: www.farmenergy.tech

Read more about AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program agrifutures.com.au/chicken-meat/