For two decades, Dr. Gene Simpson and Jim Donald have worked together researching practical technologies to improve the efficiency of poultry production. Their commitment to applied science saved farmers millions of dollars and earned them the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Cultivator Award at the organization’s 97th annual meeting Dec. 3 in Montgomery.
The Cultivator Award recognizes individuals who nurture relationships to benefit farmers and rural families.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell praised the duo’s work, which gave rise to the internationally renowned National Poultry Technology Center at Auburn University.
“Jim Donald and Gene Simpson understand the land grant university mission of serving farmers through research, teaching and outreach,” Parnell said. “By providing real-world solutions, they’ve helped farmers increase production, cut costs and conserve natural resources. Their work reaches beyond the laboratory and is making a difference in the lives and budgets of the farmers we serve.”
Their partnership began in 1998 when Simpson, an ag economist who pioneered use of computers at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, joined forces with Donald, who had already been helping farmers for a decade as a professor in biosystems engineering.
Together, they began exploring poultry house ventilation, heating, lighting and water usage. Determined to share real-world solutions with farmers, Donald launched PoultryHouse.com and the Poultry Engineering, Economics and Management Newsletter in 1999.
Over the years, Donald and Simpson used these tools — along with thousands of personal appearances — to educate farmers about technologies to increase efficiency and save money.
Improved construction and insulation methods pioneered by the researchers reduced fuel costs by 50 percent for poultry farmers, while LED lighting innovations saved $1,000 per broiler house. Their latest project — using poultry house roofs to capture rainwater — has the potential to lower water use by 80 percent and reduce erosion.
Overall, systems developed by Simpson and Donald have saved the poultry industry $30 to $50 million a year.
Since 2004, the Alabama Farmers Federation has worked alongside these men to secure annual funding for the National Poultry Technology Center, which opened in 2007. Its goal is to improve bottom-line profitability of the U.S. poultry industry through applied research and education that contributes to increased efficiencies in housing, equipment, energy and environmental control. Donald serves as NPTC director, and Simpson is associate director.
“It goes back to a team effort,” Donald said. “No individual could have done what the National Poultry Technology Center team has in the past 10 years, and I want to thank them.”
Simpson also expressed appreciation for the poultry growers who tested their innovations.
“I am especially thankful for farmers; it’s great waking up in the morning and knowing that I can go to work to help a grower out there,” he said.
Donald and Simpson led efforts to publish the book “Poultry House Construction Guidelines.” With more than 10,000 copies in circulation, the volume has become a bible for farmers, integrators, lenders, insurers and manufacturers.
“By remaining dedicated to conducting meaningful research and sharing practical solutions, Simpson and Donald have cultivated relationships with farmers, elected officials, scientists and agribusinesses that will pay dividends for years to come,” Parnell said.