While air quality within and around swine farms and its impact on nearby individuals are commonly studied environmental health issues, there is a lack of technology that can reliably and objectively measure the level of particles in the air so advancements can be made to remove them to improve air quality. To remedy this problem, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), in partnership with the National Pork Board (NPB), launched in 2022 the Improving Swine Production Air Quality Program. Last summer, the program solicited applications to fund research that develops objective particulate matter measurement technologies for large-scale assessments of particulate levels on and near swine farms. Today FFAR and NPB announced that Dr. Jiqin Ni, professor of agriculture and bioengineering at Purdue University and Dr. Xufei Yang, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at South Dakota State University were awarded grants totaling nearly $1 million, $500,000 from FFAR, with matching funding from NPB.
Reliable air quality assessments, generated using objective methods and metrics, are critical for understanding the source of swine production particulates and developing continuous improvement efforts. Currently, air quality measurements specific to swine farms are lacking. Most existing air quality assessment methods are developed to measure particulate matter found in indoor environments that are different from that found in swine farms or to measure particulate matter found in ambient air. Particulate matter found in swine farms is different from ambient particulate matter in several ways including particulate matter source, size, composition, and concentration amongst others. Existing particulate matter measurement methods are costly, complex, slow and can introduce bias. Lack of reliable measurements is preventing improved air quality.
“Poor air quality can have harmful effects on farm workers, their animals and the neighboring communities,” said Dr. Constance Gewa, FFAR senior program director. “In order to improve air quality on swine farms, the current amount of particulate matter on and around farms needs to be accurately and reliably measured. However, current particulate matter measurement methods are not specific for agriculture.”
The Improving Swine Production Air Quality Program is developing objective particulate matter measurement technologies for large-scale assessments of particulate levels on and near swine farms.
Ni received $500,086 to develop an innovative Particulate Matter Monitoring Station (PMMS) for exposure monitoring. The PMMS will be portable, fast-response, sensitive, low-cost and easy to operate. The PMMS will be calibrated against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated particulate matter measurement methods.
“Particulate matter from swine production facilities has been long perceived as a farm hygiene issue and a nuisance by farm workers and neighboring communities,” said Ni. “This research will enable obtaining large amount of objective and reliable particulate matter concentrations and their distributions. These concentration data will help the producers understand the actual issues with particulate matter at swine production and take appropriate protection or mitigation measures.”
Yang received $499,817 to develop a swine farm particulate matter measurement technology designed to be reliable, low-cost and user-friendly. The project relies on obtaining large amounts of high-quality particulate matter measurement, which are essential to developing and calibrating predictive models of particulate matter emissions that can assess worker and community safety and health risks. The new predictive models and measurement protocols can be used to develop and evaluate particulate matter mitigation methods and technologies.
Producers, farmers and regulating agencies could then use the resulting methodologies and technologies on a large scale to quantify particulate exposure and reduce associated health and safety risks.