Georgia Tech Research Institute spacer Agricultural Technology Research Program


Supporting the Poultry Industry: Agricultural Technology Research Program Celebrates Four Decades of Service

which came first, the chicken or the egg

By Angela Colar

It began with a phone call. The year was 1973 and Georgia’s poultry industry was looking to grow through innovation. Having received a unique request from the industry, the Georgia Poultry Federation placed a call that turned out to be an extremely important one for then and the future.

“In the early 1970s, when I was serving on a Board of Regents Committee establishing a service enabling any citizen with a need to call one number and be referred to an expert in the University System, I received an inquiry about a noise problem in a poultry processing plant. I called the number in the morning to test the system and by the afternoon a meeting had been set up with Georgia Tech. Today, ATRP is a fully matured program and a key part of GTRI. Its collaborative efforts with the poultry industry have been very productive. I don’t know of a better public-private partnership,” recalled Abit Massey, president emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

On April 23, Massey joined a distinguished group of speakers who marked the Agricultural Technology Research Program’s 40th Anniversary during an afternoon celebration held at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Food Processing Technology Building. The event included current and former researchers and staff, industry stakeholders, and representatives from the Georgia Tech community.

For four decades, ATRP has been proud to support the growing needs of Georgia’s dynamic poultry industry. With funding from the State of Georgia and in cooperation with the Georgia Poultry Federation, ATRP has been a driving force in developing new technologies that enhance the industry’s productivity and efficiency, and is recognized as one of the best university-based engineering R&D programs focused on the poultry industry. In addition to seeking solutions to today’s challenges, the program concentrates on transformational innovations that are essential for a viable industry in the future.

“This program has evolved step-by-step with the industry. There was always that link, and I think that is why the program is so successful. There are countless examples of innovations, transformational and incremental, that have made a difference to the poultry industry, and we are looking forward to the next 40 years,” said Mike Giles, current president of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

which came first, the chicken or the egg

On April 23, GTRI’s Agricultural Technology Research Program celebrated 40 years of service to Georgia’s poultry industry. Pictured left to right: Doug Britton, ATRP program manager; Rusty Roberts, director of GTRI’s Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory; Bob McGrath, GTRI director; Gary Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture; Abit Massey, president emeritus, Georgia Poultry Federation; Mike Giles, president, Georgia Poultry Federation; Craig Wyvill, retired ATRP director; and Gary McMurray, chief of GTRI’s Food Processing Technology Division.

Indeed, a strong partnership with Georgia’s poultry industry is a hallmark of ATRP. Noting Georgia Tech’s strategic goal of doubling the amount of work it does for industry in the next five years, GTRI Director Bob McGrath said he views ATRP as the prototype of what Georgia Tech is trying to accomplish with other industries. “This is exactly what I think Georgia Tech’s partnership with industry should look like … where you the industry come in and tell us what you need, where we have great and sustained support from our state government that provides modest resources to let us work with you to understand and develop high-tech solutions to your problems.”

In what he called a homecoming, Craig Wyvill, retired ATRP director who spearheaded the program’s phenomenal growth, reflected on two of his proudest moments from ATRP’s history. He told the crowd that the program actually spawned Georgia Tech’s Material Handling Research Center in the 1980s and served as the prototype for the development of Georgia’s Traditional Industries Program for Food Processing in the 1990s. “There are a lot of good things that happen when you have the synergy of a program like this,” remarked Wyvill.

ATRP’s mission is to support the economic growth of Georgia agribusiness, especially the poultry industry, through research, education, technical assistance, and outreach. Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture, stressed the importance of university research to the economic development of a state, particularly the creation of jobs. “Anytime we have a chance in our research institutions to make investments that will generate intellectual capital that will transmit into an industry, that means not just Georgia-grown intellectual capital but Georgia-grown jobs for our future. The importance of that cannot be overstated, and our commitment to that must not waiver.”

“The strength of ATRP lies with all the great people who make up this truly unique program, and this includes all of the very talented students, staff, and researchers here at Georgia Tech as well as our incredibly supportive industry and state partners. The real credit for the success goes to all of the people who have been a part of the program over the past 40 years, and it was great to have so many of them here to celebrate with us today. I’m excited about continuing this tradition of excellence as we look to the future of the program,” said Doug Britton, ATRP program manager.
After remarks, attendees enjoyed an ice cream social and the debut of a new exhibit chronicling the program’s history of serving the poultry industry through innovative R&D. Earlier in the day, the program’s Poultry Advisory Committee held its annual meeting. Project directors provided committee members with an update on program research projects as well as technology transfer and outreach activities. A round-table session was also held where members provided feedback and discussed future research opportunities, challenges, and directions with researchers. The annual meeting serves as a critical step in ATRP’s efforts to identify and conduct research projects that best address the industry’s top priority needs, demonstrating that 40 years later, ATRP is still ready to answer industry’s call.