AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program Nutrition, Gut Health and Environment Research Program

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program, in consultation with the Chicken Meat RD&E Advisory Panel and a Chicken Industry Technical working group, is seeking to make a significant investment in a program of research to address nutrition, gut health and environment to address the overarching research question:

What aspects of broiler and broiler breeder nutrition will optimise gut health and the environment, both in-shed and external, to deliver a sustainable chicken meat production system with enhanced animal welfare?

Applications will open 10 December 2020 and closes 4 March 2021 at 12PM AEDT.

AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program Nutrition, Gut Health and Environment Research Program Open Tender

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program invests in research, development and extension (RD&E) initiatives that contribute to our vision of Growing the long-term prosperity of the Australian chicken meat industry. The four objectives  for the current RD&E Plan are:

Objective 1: Improve food safety of Australian chicken meat.

Objective 2: Develop and implement measures to improve industry impact on the environment.

Objective 3: Improve chicken meat production through the whole supply chain.

Objective 4: Improved ability to meet consumer.

The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program is seeking proposals from consortia to conduct research that leverages existing knowledge of broiler* nutrition, diet composition and feed efficiency; their impact on gut health (including microbiota); and interaction with the in-shed and external environment

All proposals from consortia must address, at least, the first three key focus areas (highlighted in bold text) as listed below which are critical aims of the AgriFutures Australia Chicken Meat Program RD&E Plan 2019-22:

  • Improved nutritional management and feed use efficiency
  • Improved management of the internal shed environment
  • Reducing pathogens before and during processing
  • Enhanced chicken welfare
  • Management strategies for chicken health
  • Determining options to reduce environmental impacts
  • Improved management of chicken production systems
  • Improved options to manage litter

 

* Note that broiler refers to both broilers and breeders throughout.

Program goal

A diet that allows the birds to reach their full genetic potential demonstrating improved health and welfare; reduces the reliance on inputs such as antibiotics and optimises the shed environment (including maintenance of litter quality and reduction of odour) while mitigating the impact on the external environment.

Scope

Collaborative, multi-institution teams that demonstrate complementary skills including research, development, adoption, and extension together with expertise in specific technologies and products are encouraged to apply. While this program of research is national in scope, international collaboration that leverages relevant knowledge and experience is encouraged. Programs of work should demonstrate the implications on the management of broilers and the benefit and impact of research outcomes on the chicken meat industry.

Applicants are required to develop a program of research (and full proposal) for assessment by the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Advisory Panel.

Priorities to be addressed and associated deliverables

All proposals must seek to address the following topics:

  • Identify novel feed ingredients, including other grains (pulses) and alternative sources of protein (algal and insect), to reduce reliance on soybean.
  • Management of broiler health and performance on antibiotic free (including ionophores) and vegetarian diets.
  • Quantify means of optimising early lifetime gut health and immune function development with long-lasting impact over the life of the broiler.
  • Establish the role of amino acids in broiler growth and gut development by capitalising on previous research with emphasis on non-essential amino acids.
  • Understand the relationship between early-life gut microbiota establishment and to chicken productivity, health and litter management for a range of diets.

 

  • Understand the impact of feed and water additives for on-farm pathogen control (i.e. Campylobacter and Salmonella).
  • Establish the impact of gizzard erosion on chicken performance and any interactions with nutrition and litter quality.
  • Determine the impact of ingredient selection by the formulator, choice feeding and feed rejection on gut health and microbiota in the Australian context.
  • Determine the key factors in the Australian context that result in rejection of ingredients or feed particles in broiler diets and quantify the impact on gut health, performance, and body weight.
  • Monitor in-shed environmental impacts of broiler nutrition and gut health including levels of humidity, ammonia and faecal matter on litter and odour management.
  • Evaluate strategies to improve the environmental impact (footprint) of chicken meat production through broiler nutrition.

Deliverables

  • Industry applicable measurement and/or assessment methods to quantify gut health, gut microbiota, gizzard erosion and litter quality. These could include direct or indirect measurements (i.e. incidence of foot lesions or breast blisters as a proxy for litter quality).
  • Optimised broiler diets that enhance gut health, immune function and the in-shed environment for Cobb and Ross chickens.
  • Management tools, systems, or protocols to facilitate the integration of research outputs into chicken meat production systems and monitor their impact.
  • Established impacts of broiler nutrition and gut health interventions on the sustainability of chicken meat production systems.
  • A value proposition detailing the benefits and costs of the research to support the case for adoption and practice change in industry.
  • Regular engagement with chicken meat program management and industry stakeholders to identify extension and adoption pathways.
  • Embedded capacity building activities to support training and workforce development for the industry workforce and for chicken meat researchers.

Budget

  • Consortia that bring matching funds will be highly regarded.
  • The budget request for this program of research is expected to be up to $1.5 million per year for three years.

Timeline

  • 28 October 12 pm AEDT: Q&A Webinar to answer questions about the Program of Research approach/
  • 5 November 12 pm AEDT: Follow up Q&A Webinar to provide detailed information about contracting, proposed timeline for submitting proposals (if you missed the webinar please see recording here).
  • 10 December 2020: Applications open (please refer to this webpage for further details)
  • 4 March 2021 12PM AEDT: Applications close
  • Mid March 2021: Proposal assessment commences

Proposed research, development, and extension work should not plan to commence prior to July 2021.

Please ensure you review previous AgriFutures Australia funded projects that are relevant to this research call and leverage existing knowledge. Details are available here.

Questions and Answers from Webinar 28 October 2020

A webinar was held on Wednesday 28 October 2020 providing an overview of the opportunity and requirements. Responses to the questions asked are outlined below.

Would you expect that more than one consortium be eventually funded? Will only one consortia be awarded the funding, or could there be a couple/few that share the funding with different focuses?

No. Only one research agreement will be funded. One group or consortia will be awarded the funding to undertake the program of research as per the Terms of Reference.

AgriFutures Australia expects that research providers will hold their own discussions to pull together the expertise to be able to deliver against all of the key deliverables.

Proposals addressing just one deliverable will not be considered.

AgriFutures Australia will not actively broker or arrange research providers to form consortia or groups.

What if my research idea is not listed in the TOR; will there be a open call this year?

No, at this stage there will not be a open call for RD&E ideas this year. This program of work is the current priority for the chicken meat industry.

Other targeted calls to address industry-identified needs may arise throughout the year.

Are you expecting the matched funding to be all cash, or can it include in-kind? Does matching funds need to be cash or in-kind ?

The preference is that proposal will include cash contributions as well as in-kind. The AgriFutures Chicken Meat Advisory Panel will consider the proposal put in front of them and the merits of each. Proposals that bring additional cash will be considered favourably.

Are the proposal application docs the same or different?

We are expecting detailed proposals.  If you have any questions about the proposal please contact AgriFutures Chicken Meat Manager, Research Georgie Townsend or Annie Lane.

How will IP be considered?

To ensure this investment delivers value for the chicken meat industry, AgriFutures Australia expects that research organisations will leverage past research, development and extension, and as such, it is expected that research organisations may bring specialist IP to this project.

At contracting, AgriFutures Australia will negotiate with the preferred respondent/s to develop an appropriate and relevant IP and commercialisation agreement to deliver value for the Australian chicken meat industry.

As background, our new research agreement and IP and Commercialisation terms are found on our website here.

 

Webinar 5 November 2020

A webinar was held on Thursday 5 November giving potential applicants an opportunity to ask further questions.

Will a letter from the committing organisation do?

The letter of intent from a committing organisation would need to be signed by someone within the organisation with the delegated authority to approve the cash commitment.

Do you have a preferred guideline for the management and governance of the consortium?

No. We are open to your ideas. There is not a guideline for the management and governance of the consortium, that is the responsibility of the lead organisation and the team. However, the consortium would be guided by the principles that are established for the management of all investments through the AgriFutures Chicken Meat Program, more details can be found in the Researcher Handbook.

Is there an underlying subtext to the program for workforce development?

No, not an underlying subtext, rather, there is an explicit deliverable stated, ‘Embedded capacity building activities to support training and workforce development for the industry workforce and for chicken meat researchers.’ That is, we expect the proposal to address this industry-designed deliverable to embedded workforce development into the program of work.

Proposals addressing just one deliverable will not be considered.

Do you want the successful consortia to have experience in research management?

We are seeking a research team/s to partner for effective delivery of the program goal: A diet that allows the birds to reach their full genetic potential demonstrating improved health and welfare; reduces the reliance on inputs such as antibiotics and optimises the shed environment (including maintenance of litter quality and reduction of odour) while mitigating the impact on the external environment.

We expect the successful team will include researchers and specialists from a range of disciplines. Effective management of the team will be required to meet the goal. The demonstration of experience in research management would be taken into consideration. It is expected that the lead organisation would manage the delivery of the program of research.

Just to clarity if we get $100K investment from industry you will match that over and above the $1.5M? 

Yes, that is possible. We will consider investment of AgriFutures Chicken Meat budget of up to $1.5m per year for three years. If cash contributions are brought to the project, the rules by which AgriFutures matches cash contributions will apply.  Matched funds are subject to the legislated and contractual agreements that AgriFutures Australia complies with and can only be used for the purposes they are invested in.

Can you have a Q&A webinar after the application portal opens? 

A Q&A Webinar will be scheduled following the opening of the proposal portal. The time and date are TBA. Until the portal opens, you can approach the Research Managers to answer any specific questions.  Your methodology must address the Terms of Reference  by covering:

  • How your group will address the program goal, priorities and key deliverables
  • Who will undertake the work
  • What your program will involve
  • Why your group is best placed to deliver this program.

By matching funding do you mean 1:1?

No. Matching funds is fixed by our funding agreement, as 1:0.5, i.e. $1 in $1.50 out.

How important is collaboration with industry chicken meat businesses?

Critical. The intent of the program of research is to have industry-ready research outcomes that can be adopted by industry, readily implemented, or used to improve their decision making within their businesses. The Terms of Reference has been developed with industry input. At every stage of the program, the industry will be involved or benefit from the outcomes of the research.

Will there be any normal proposal calls from Agrifutures in the next three years?

Yes, there will be other open calls, notification will be given about those closer to the time.

Does the funding commence in July 2021 for the approved project?

Funding will commence once an agreed contract is signed by all parties as soon as practicable after July 2021.

Are there any chances of delay beyond July 2021?

The commencement will be dependent on the contracting process.

How much detail do you need in full proposal?

The full proposal should detail the plans to achieve the key priorities and deliverables of the project as described in the terms of reference. A detailed budget is expected. Your proposal should set out to address all the deliverables.

Are there any forums where consortia/potential researchers can communicate various proposals?

If an individual researcher contacts an Agrifutures Chicken Meat program Research Managers, we will be suggesting that they reach out to groups who are participating in consortia discussions.

How will the successful consortium/program be structured? Will there be subprojects led by individual researchers?

The structure, staffing, and membership of the program team, and how they are organised and funded to undertake the program of research is up to that group.

Only one research partnership will be funded. One group or consortium will be awarded the funding to undertake the program of research as per the Terms of Reference.

For example, to deliver against the key deliverables, there might be several sub-projects led by different organisations, but collectively managed by the lead group in the consortium. Agrifutures will not manage individual subprojects that contribute to the program of research. All discussions, structures, and partnerships to deliver this work, need to be had prior to submission of the proposal.