The academic apple tree – Professor David Farrell’s contribution to poultry science

Welcome to another edition of eChook!

The Academic Apple Tree” is the title of Professor David Farrell’s autobiography. It is an amazing story from a number of points of view.

Firstly, let me say a few words about the connection between David’s career and mine. David left the University of New England (UNE) in 1994 to take up a position at the University of Queensland. I was lucky enough to get the job David vacated. So, in August 1995, I was at the bottom of that “apple tree” looking up at the enormous amount of fruit David had helped it bear. It was a true honour to follow in the footsteps of a scientific champion like David – but was also daunting. It was an honour because the reputation of UNE for excellence in poultry science depended, in large part, on David’s tremendous contribution to poultry science and development of the poultry industry throughout the world. Thus, it was a great place to start my career. On the other hand, it was daunting because not only had he published hundreds of scientific papers and articles but had also dedicated over 30 years of his life to help developing countries establish sound agricultural industries, particularly village poultry. David conducted research on a range of poultry species including ostriches, emus, ducks, Japanese quail and he developed an omega-3 fatty acid-enriched chicken egg. His list of achievements is very long.

Secondly, I would like to highlight David’s vision for innovative ideas. David is well recognised as a world expert in poultry nutrition, particularly in the area of energy metabolism. When I met David in 1989 at the first Australian Poultry Science Symposium in Sydney, he talked about “energy exchange in layers”. This was amazing: investigating the maintenance energy needs of two breeds of hens using closed-circuit calorimetry. As many of you might be aware, 25 years after his work the Poultry CRC, together with the Rural Research and Development Corporation, is examining the feasibility of a net energy system based on David’s original idea of using closed-circuit calorimetry. David’s thinking was years ahead of his time!

David’s achievements and life story make for fascinating reading. “The Academic Apple Tree” is available via their website.


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