Backyard chicken rearing is very lucrative for low-income families and unemployed individuals because of the high-quality protein in chicken meat and its popularity in many households. It is widespread especially in developing countries in Southern Africa, however, often, farmers can incur losses due to unpredictable weather conditions that can adversely affect the health and growth of the birds and consequently the quality of the produced meat. Chicken rearing is also time-consuming and labor intensive, factors that can cause inefficiency and low productivity. IoT enabling technologies could significantly improve profitability and reduce production cost by minimizing time consumption and manual labor requirements. However, many available on-market technologies enabling smart poultry farming like IoT capable automated environmental monitoring and actuating systems are expensive and therefore not attractive to small scale backyard farmers. This paper describes an innovative modular architecture based on fast prototyping and low-cost components to monitor and control the environmental conditions inside chicken coops as well as keep track of food and water delivery. The proposed architecture consists of a network of sensors, a local gateway, local actuators, a cloud service, and a web application and a mobile app that act as dashboards for data visualization and commands input. With the aim of demonstrating the feasibility of the architecture, an initial prototype was implemented and tested in a real situation within a farm in Southern Africa demonstrating the effectiveness of the system and highlighting the important and useful contribution that fast-prototyping devices, tools and technologies can bring to the sector.
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