Interview of Alessandra Piccirillo, UNIPD

alessandra piccirillo
alessandra piccirillo

We will host a new section in our NetPoulSafe website news : a focus on a partner / a participant to the NetPoulsafe project. This month, we welcome on board Dr Alessandra Piccirillo from University of Padua, Italy, to learn more about her work and involvment to the NetPoulSafe project.

Hello Alessandra, could you please explain us what your position is in UNIPD and what your concern with biosecurity is ?

I am a veterinarian working at the University of Padua as associate professor in Infectious Diseases of Domestic Animals. Since 2002, I have been teaching poultry diseases to the students of the Veterinary Medicine Degree. In 2015, I was awarded as de facto diplomate in the European College of Poultry Veterinary Science (ECPVS). As researcher in the field, I recognize that biosecurity measures are crucial to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens among flocks and this guarantees the health and the welfare, as well as the quality and the safety, of poultry products. An efficacious biosecurity program should include practices to be implemented at each point of the production chain, from poultry farms to the education and training of farmers and other personnel working in strict contact with birds. Thus, it is fundamental that biosecurity practices are followed along the entire poultry value chain.

Why were you interested to join the NetPoulSafe project?

Italy is the 5th and 4th largest poultry meat and egg producer in Europe, accounting for around 10% and 12% of the total European production, respectively. The Italian poultry sector is organized in vertically integrated industries, with most of poultry farms concentrated in the northern regions of the country. Veneto region, where the University of Padua is located, provides the highest number of poultry farms and the highest number of birds reared, mainly turkeys. Taken into account the importance of the poultry sector in Italy, it is of great value to represent my country within the NetPoulSafe project where I play the role of Network Facilitator (i.e link between project team and field actors / scientific working group for Italy).

Who are the members of your teams involved, and what is their role?

Several collaborators of the University of Padua compose my team. First, Giuditta Tilli is a PhD student in Veterinary Science and Food Safety working full time on the project and strongly involved as my “right hand woman”. Professor Angela Trocino and Doctor Andrea Laconi are other two members of the research team involved in some specific activities of the NetPoulSafe project. They are working on the dissemination and communication strategy and are collaborating to the creation of tools and materials, such as podcasts, videos, e-learning modules, to disseminate the NetPoulSafe results. Other two colleagues, Doctor Francesco Galuppo (Local Veterinary Services) and Professor Guido Grilli (University of Milan) are involved in the project and collaborating with my research team in recruiting pilot farms in which to test and validate the supporting biosecurity measures and carrying out the validation phase on field.

UNIPD hosted the 4th general meeting of the project, which was the first physical and online meeting since the beginning of the project, with a very warm welcome to Netpoulsafe partners. How did you live this experience?

The meeting was held in Agripolis Campus where the Veterinary Medicine School of the University of Padua is located on 24th and 25th March 2022. Since not all the partners could join due to COVID restrictions in their own countries, a hybrid meeting has been organized. Therefore, all partners were present and fruitful discussions were carried on. Organizing this meeting was a great occasion for all of us as we had the chance to see and talk each other in person for the first time since the beginning of the project.

You are now starting the evaluation phase in Italian farms. Can you tell us what you will set up in the following weeks, and what you expect from this?

Due to the Avian Influenza epidemic occurred in Italy between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the validation phase in the pilot farms has been postponed, but now we are happy to start. Around 30 poultry farmers (broilers, layers, turkeys, ducks, breeders and hatcheries) have joined the Italian pilot farm network, and they are willing to start this phase. We expect to have fruitful discussions on critical points of biosecurity implementation and to experience a new supporting measure, such as coaching. So, we will provide a contribution to improve biosecurity and to raise awareness on the importance of the correct implementation of biosecurity measures among the stakeholders involved in the poultry production chain.

What else do you wish to add?

The NetPoulSafe project gave young researchers, like Giuditta, the opportunity to expand their knowledge on biosecurity in the poultry production chain, covering different aspects (from implementation on field to studying literature and regulations). A deeper understanding of the poultry production chain in different European countries as well as their approach to biosecurity were also another great occasion for the professional growth of all people involved in the project, from researchers to stakeholders. Finally, the NetPoulSafe project gave all of us the opportunity to join many experts working on the field and to improve the network of contacts within Europe for gaining a proficient poultry production.

Thanks a lot Alessandra, and good continuation for this project !


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