The Second Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Summit Stresses the Importance of Communication and Collaboration Between Industry and Academia

Led by AGNR, researchers, industry leaders, students, communicators, and government stakeholders came together to discuss ways to improve the Delmarva poultry industry

UMD's College of AGNR Takes the Lead at the 2nd Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Summit

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

March 22, 2019 Samantha Watters

The Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee welcomed the poultry industry, university researchers and students, federal and state government partners and representatives, and other key stakeholders to the Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Summit on March 13th at the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, Md. With nearly 150 participants in attendance, including representatives from the offices of Delaware Senators Coons and Carper and Maryland Senator Van Hollen and Governor Hogan, the summit brought together a diverse group from across the Delmarva region with the goal of improving communication and partnerships to enhance the health and productivity of the poultry industry. The day was full of research presentations and panel discussions, with a keynote address from Jack Shere, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and Chief Veterinary Officer of the U.S.

The University of Maryland College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR) took the lead in organizing this event, with Nathaniel Tablante of Veterinary Medicine and UMD Extension serving as master of ceremonies for the day. “We started this committee because we as university researchers and Extension agents felt that we needed to communicate more with the poultry industry for the benefit of our constituents. We started that process when Moses Kairo and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore hosted the first poultry summit two years ago, and today we’d like to continue that process and keep the ball rolling,” said Tablante.

After introducing the many major players in attendance including industry sponsors, deans from all major universities involved, as well as government and political representatives, he handed it over to Shere for the keynote presentation to discuss poultry health nationwide, including major diseases such as avian influenza and newcastle disease. “There is nothing more important than a partnership in the middle of a disease outbreak,” said Shere.

Following this introduction into the latest in disease preparedness and policy, company representatives from Perdue, Tyson Foods, and Mountaire Farm discussed ways they would recommend improving our communication between industry and academia. “Relationships are hard, and they need to have give and take and energy to succeed,” says Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue. He discussed the need for more specialized training and “micro-credentialing” through universities to help develop industry employees and keep them highly educated and informed. He also discussed the concept of a rotating internship process for students  to build continuity and give them hands-on experience to benefit both academia and industry.

Additionally, Stuart-Brown proposed the development of a Delmarva-poultry-specific research priority list that is jointly developed by industry and academia, including agricultural engineering. “We need more agricultural engineering students to get the true facts to the legislators, and unfortunately this specialization isn’t as common anymore,” reinforces Bill Massey, Mountaire Farm. Sarah Harrison Linton, Tyson Foods, echoed these thoughts, specifically mentioning the use of biowaste and digesters and the enhancement of this technology.

Biodigesters were among the many topics covered by university researchers. Research posters were displayed throughout the day to spark conversation among attendees, with a formal poster session alloted with faculty and university representatives available to answer questions. In addition, select researchers presented their work in lightning round presentations covering areas across legislation, live production, and food safety. Other posters included research findings on animal welfare, the environment, and poultry health. Poultry health research and preparedness was reinforced by the post-lunch panel discussion led by Heather Hirst, Delaware State Veterinarian, and Michael Radebaugh, Maryland State Veterinarian, discussing local response to a recent avian influenza issue and plans for the future.

The universities serving the Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee are the University of Delaware (UDEL), Delaware State University (DESU), University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP), University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Committee members include these institutions, as well as members of state government and industry representatives including Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. (DPI). UMCP’s Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) staff provided administrative and logistical support for the event, with the help of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology to organize the summit. The summit had nine different industry and organizational sponsors, including bronze-level sponsors Ecodrum, Farm Credit, Farm Freezers, Huvepharma, Sunrise Solar, University of Delaware School of Agriculture & Natural Resources; with silver-level sponsorship from Clear View Enterprises; and MERCK Animal Health as a gold-level sponsor.

With all of these important players in the room, Holly Porter, Executive Director of DPI, made some closing remarks from industry, while Adel Shirmohammadi, professor and associate dean of research at University of Maryland AGNR, closed the day for the universities.

"We know there is a lot of stuff going on, whether it is within companies and in our industry or in academics, and we need to make sure that communication is open, and that companies know what is going on right here in our universities,” said Porter. “We are a leading area in poultry production right here, and we have some of the best universities right here too. We really just need to match up so that universities know what industry needs for us to continue to be leaders.”

Shirmohammadi reiterated, “We are excited about this partnership and need to put time and effort into this going forward, because that is the only way we can make sure we are exchanging information, learning what the needs are, and how we can help one another. Workshops, in-person meetings, and virtual platforms like an online repository of research are all things that we want to look at in the future to keep communication strong.”