Poultry Research Foundation – purpose 
and objectives

Dr Peter Groves

The Poultry Research Foundation (PRF), located at the Camden Campus of Sydney University and headed up by Dr Peter Groves, Director of the PRF, conducts valuable research into many critical aspects of our commercial poultry industries.

The PRF also provides a career path for those who wish to conduct post graduate studies in poultry science.

On September 10, 2020 Poultry Digest visited the PRF to discuss with Dr Groves pathways for students and to see the facilities in which students can replicate commercial production situations.

Poultry Digest has followed the careers of many of the students who have gained further qualifications at the PRF, like Dr Sonia Liu, Senior Lecturer in Poultry Nutrition, who studied under the guidance of Dr Peter Selle and is now a key member of the Nutrition Group as a Senior Lecturer at Sydney University.

The Poultry Research Foundation was one of the original foundations established within the University of Sydney by the University Senate, in October 1958.

“The objectives of the Poultry Research Foundation are to advise the Senate of the University of Sydney and the Vice-Chancellor on matters associated with poultry research, education and scholarship and to provide an interface between the Australian poultry and allied industries and the university,” Dr Groves explained.

“One of the aims of the foundation is to assist in the training of scientific and technical personnel to service the private and public sectors of industry by conducting contract research for the industry and supporting partners.

“PRF is investigating more sections in order to present trial research as an extension of the overall Sydney University research capability.

Through PRF foundation governors (Inghams, Baiada and DSM), and members contacts, students are introduced to the industry.

This opens doors for potential student employment and a great introduction to agriculture. As a member you will get priority contact for the APSS sponsorship.

The specific purposes of the foundation were to provide an interface between the Australian poultry and allied industries, and the Faculty of Veterinary Science.

The foundation conducts industry related research, assists in the training of scientific personnel and acts in an industrial liaison capacity.

The foundation’s contribution to the development of the Australian poultry and stockfeeds industries has been achieved through research programs directed at achieving better understanding of the metabolism and nutritional requirements of poultry.

PRF has regularly hosted workshops, seminars and symposia.

In 1989, the annual Foundation Symposium was to become the Australian Poultry Science Symposium (APSS) through a joint collaboration with the Australian Branch of the World’s Poultry Science Association.

Today it is recognised as being a leading poultry science event and has welcomed speakers from poultry industries around the world.

In 2020, the APSS beat a COVID induced lockdown and travel bans by a narrow margin, but for 2021 the organisers have taken the novel approach of combining a ‘socially distanced’ live audience with a webinar, so overseas speakers and those unable to attend in person for whatever reason, can be Zoomed into the event.

For this Zoom Symposium, the physical presence will return to the APSS traditional home of Sydney University Campus, Camperdown. It will be a two day event with overseas and interstate speakers online.

Themes include adult layer nutrition, alternatives to antibiotics, an animal welfare section and health. The AVPA meeting will follow APSS as an online only event.

Ben Geist, organiser of APSS, tells Poultry Digest he has been working on new IT skills big time, to make this all happen as smoothly as possible.

Such enterprise deserves full industry support and participation. While COVID has changed the way we do things, it hasn’t stopped us engaging in learning about the important scientific breakthroughs that have made the poultry industry the leading protein source in Australia.

It will be, we are sure, a milestone event and the 32nd APSS will demonstrate that good science delivered using the best available technologies will beat pestilence – because that is what science is for!

Sydney University – Career progression in poultry

“For the ‘Health, Welfare & Management in Poultry’, either post graduate work for a PhD or Masters qualification by research does not attract tuition fees, but course work requires investment,” Dr Groves explained.

“Applicants need to identify a project that our academics have in mind, then locate a supervisor to focus on that research pathway.

“The Nutrition Group, with Dr Sonia Liu leading and adjunct Professor Peter Selle running that group, is a good place to start.

“Research pathways progress through those groups.

“As they progress through their research and become known through presenting their studies and research at events like APSS, and Poultry Hub, the students will have a greater success in industry placement.

“The students establish contact with industry partners and this is a critical asset in finding a secure path of employment after university study.

“Funding sources for research include AgriFutures, Australian Eggs, Poultry Hub, as well as industry members.”

Dr Groves pointed out that there are now at least six poultry veterinarians currently working in the industry who studied at the PRF.

The ages of post grad students who are working on the qualifications with the PRF, ranges from those who have recently completed their animal science degrees, to experienced individuals who hold significant executive roles in industry.

Peter Chrystal, Senior Nutritionist at Baiada, has helped in the formulation of endless diets for what are now his fellow PhD candidates.

Christine Clark, who has held senior roles in feed additive companies, and now runs Premium Agri serving the layer industry, is involved in vaccine use research.

There is a variety of infrastructure on site at the Camden Campus which is critical to students being able to trial and demonstrate hypotheses in systems that closely replicate commercial production.

The on-site feed mill is capable of producing the huge numbers of diets needed to support students nutritional research by producing small quantities of speciality pellet feed.

There are deep litter floor sheds and cage layer facilities, metabolism rooms and climate-controlled buildings that are all arranged for research specific to the benefit of the poultry industry.

“There are laboratories focusing on nutrition at the PRF and students also have access to other Sydney university laboratories which are part of the university’s research programs,” Dr Groves said.

“There are 180 AVS students and 130 DVMs over the last two years, which have been trained in poultry science through the PRF,” he said.

Poultry health is a focus as all vet students are introduced to poultry and practical work in poultry, sometimes doing up to six pracs weekly.

The PRF is open for membership for any company interested in poultry science and nutrition. The foundation is particularly looking for layer members. There are two business meetings a year and the PRF runs APSS.

When Poultry Digest visited the Camden PRF facilities, we were shown a board commemorating those who had contributed to the new facilities in 1997.

Dr Groves pointed to the large number of companies that had either disappeared or amalgamated with each other in the 62 years since then.

Support for this valuable research organisation is vital and the animal health and nutrition advances made since 1958 have delivered consumers safe, healthy and sustainable protein, but will only continue to do so with financial support from both industry and government.