Waitrose and Scotland’s Rural College’s (SRUC) have won the ‘Farming for the Future’ award at the BBC Food and Farming Awards for their collaboration on an app that will help Waitrose farmers assess the emotional wellbeing of its farm animals. The project has also had backing by the BQP team which has been supporting the venture with assessments and collecting KPI’s from farms.

Although the app itself is designed to be practical and easy to use on farm, it is underpinned by rigorous scientific research, which its creator, Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder, calls “Qualitative Behavioural Assessment” (QBA).

The first of its kind, the app aims to manage and improve opportunities that animals have to experience a good and enriching life – a process that we hope will lead to further improvements to animal welfare standards across the UK.

Howard Revell, Pig Production Director, has been supporting the project and explained: “I was thrilled when the Waitrose team told me about the award. Our work has supported visits to a number of our BQP farms which will soon expand to Lamb farms – followed by collecting KPI’s. At the heart of our work is animal welfare so we are glad we can help to ensure this project is a success and offer our expertise and guidance.

“Waitrose share our core values when it comes to animal welfare so we look forward to working with them even closer in the near future around this app and look forward to seeing our farmers use it.”

Developed by leading animal behavioural scientists at SRUC the team have licensed the app for trial and development over the next two years. Specifically, the application has been designed to help welfare assessors better understand, recognise and record emotionally expressive behaviour which, in part, contribute to an animal’s quality of life.

The method allows animal welfare inspectors to record different expressive qualities of behaviour through the app, such as being relaxed, tense, playful or anxious – behaviours that are indicative of an animal’s emotional body language and possible signs of their general well-being.

Jake Pickering, Senior Agriculture Manager at Waitrose, commented: “We are delighted to be recognised for this ground-breaking piece of work. This is the first time that an app has been specifically created to assess the emotional wellbeing of farm animals and it will create a step change across the UK farming sector. Just as we know when our pets are unhappy, we can now know the same about our farm animals and this app will help broaden our understanding of animal welfare to potentially boost their overall quality of life.”

If you are interested in working with BQP, please contact Mark Jagger on: Mark.Jagger@pilgrimsuk.com