Integration text - Lecturer-tenure track data-driven animal nutrition and animal management

The Department of Animal Sciences and Aquatic Ecology covers areas of expertise related to different functions of animals for humans and related to the evaluation of anthropogenic influences on the environment in relation to its optimal and sustainable use. Within the department, the Laboratory for Animal Nutrition and Quality of Animal Products (Lanupro) has built up a strong international reputation in recent decades in the fields of sustainable animal production, animal physiology and nutrition, and quality of animal products. It aims at consolidating and further extending these fields in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary way, both through research and through research-based education, with an emphasis on farm animals. Lanupro has played an important role in the development of analytical methods applicable to various biological matrices and of innovative in vitro and in vivo models. The latter partially rely on the recently commissioned new facility for weaned piglets with automatic real-time feed, water and body weight registration that allows to collect 'big data' to monitor and control production processes. Lanupro's research focus mainly concerns: 1/ animal nutrition and animal products in a sustainable and circular bio-economy; 2/ the role of microbiota in digestion, metabolism and health of farm animals and 3/ meat quality and the role of animal products in human nutrition. It is Lanupro's ambition to develop a fourth data-driven research pillar that is strongly linked to the aforementioned 3 pillars.

Within animal nutrition and animal management, there is a progressive evolution, both nationally and internationally, towards data-driven approaches with input from various data types, including sensor technology and the application of advanced algorithms. For example, feed intake (behavior), water intake, body weight, animal activity and interaction, body condition, animal health parameters (e.g. coughing, heart rate, breathing rhythm) are some examples of parameters that - through continuous monitoring - can provide a clear picture of the health, welfare and performance of animals. Combined with the identification of specific (normal) animal behaviour, the recording of the barn climate and the inventory of the feed composition, the potential amount of data is difficult to oversee. Distilling the valuable insights is a major bottleneck, as it requires merging expertise in current manufacturing processes with expertise in data science. The use of artificial intelligence will play an important role in this. Since October 2019, the development of research expertise with regard to 'customized data-driven animal nutrition and animal management' was started with the aim of embedding this future-oriented expertise in Lanupro. The development of the 'data-driven' research is initially linked to the 'animal nutrition spearhead' of the research group. The appointment of a tenure track within this domain should accelerate the further expansion and integration of this domain within Lanupro. In this way, the new research domain is clearly embedded in ongoing research and a core expertise is strengthened. This focus also offers opportunities for further transfer to education, not only within the existing programs, but also within the new application for an interfaculty master's program in Animal Health Science with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering as responsible faculties. Lanupro aspires within this program to specifically contribute to courses related to different animal production systems, to animal nutrition, to the quantitative approach of sustainability in animal sciences, and to data-driven animal nutrition and management. Complementarity is of course pursued with developments at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, where a BOF-ZAP mandate is foreseen in 2026 that aims to integrate digital developments in animal monitoring into the diagnosis of diseases and into health management of cattle. In this respect, expertise with farm animal species other than cattle is recommended for the present vacancy.

Lanupro also makes a significant contribution to animal-related education in both the programs of bioscience engineering technology as well as bioscience engineering at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering. The new mandate should strengthen the involvement and presence in these programs, in particular within the program of bioscience engineering technology (BSc and MSc Bioscience Engineering Technology), and help shape and contribute to upcoming reforms within these programs. Given the application-oriented nature of the program of bioscience engineering technology, it is essential that the selected candidate has a sound practical knowledge and a good interaction with the field. After all, implementation and optimization of (new) techniques within a business context are central to this training. On the other hand, biologically oriented basic subjects form the backbone of the program. Consequently, the selected candidate will not only be responsible for application-oriented courses, but also for a number of basic courses. The planned teaching assignment (situation spring 2023) consists of the following courses as responsible or co-lecturer:

Basic subjects:

Animal physiology (I700213) (responsible lecturer), 5 ECTS, teaching language: Dutch

Reproductive Physiology of Animals (I700042) (responsible lecturer), 4 ECTS, teaching language: Dutch

In-depth/application-oriented courses:

Animal Production Systems (I700259) (co-lecturer), 6 ECTS, teaching language: Dutch

Integrated Exercises: Crops, Animals and Agricultural Farm (I700260) (responsible lecturer or co-lecturer) 3 ECTS, in particular the organization of an international study trip

Monitoring Systems in Agriculture (I002651) (co-lecturer), 5 ECTS, teaching language: Dutch

Finally, the tenure track is expected to show commitment to quality assurance in education, including participation in (a) training program committee(s), in particular of the Master of Science in Bioscience Engineering Technology: Agriculture and Horticulture (Plant and Animal Production).