Verhaeghe-Het Anker partners with Petersime for layer hatchery expansion
An interview with Hans Verhaeghe.
We arrived at the site of Hatchery Verhaeghe and were cordially greeted by Hans Verhaeghe, third generation business owner and poultry enthusiast. It was at the age of 26 that he took over the leadership of the hatchery from his father, Gaby Verhaeghe.
“As a kid I didn’t think of doing this. Like other children, I also wanted to be a firefighter or a football player, but later, it became obvious that I am meant to be here”, he says, “I am born and raised with the hatchery.” His grandfather, Leon Verhaeghe, founded the hatchery in the 1930s with only 2 incubators at the very beginning.
A small hatchery facing big challenges
Today, Verhaeghe-Het Anker is an integrated poultry farm, still located on the same site in Geluwe, West-Flanders, Belgium. For more than 80 years now, this family business has been focusing on raising layer hens for consumer purposes as a main activity. Although hatching day-old chicks for layer houses is their secondary activity, this business has grown significantly, which led to a strategic partnership with the Dutch hatchery ‘Het Anker’ in 2009.
Thanks to that partnership, Verhaeghe needed extra production capacity and thus an expansion or in this case, a new facility next to the place where the old one once stood. This gave him the opportunity to start from scratch with no limits or restrictions from the lay-out of the existing floorplan. The old hatchery could generate only 1/3 of the capacity of the new one. Often, they had to outsource large orders to other hatcheries.
With the new, bigger capacity, they can meet the steep export demands. Despite the expansion, Verhaeghe-Het Anker is still a relatively small hatchery. “At the moment, we employ 15 people on a fixed-term basis. Although we have 2 people in-house mastering the feather sexing skills, we sometimes hire six extra people for this job. That depends on the demand.”
Clever design based on years of experience
After thoroughly disinfecting and putting on clean clothes and shoes, we started our guided tour through the shiny new hatchery. It immediately struck us as odd that there was only one central gateway for the delivery of eggs and the departure of chicks. Next to this, the storage space was also very limited. Not a usual hatchery lay-out.
This is where Verhaeghe’s own experience, planning and a clever cost saving design pays off. “Because we joined forces with Het Anker, we need less storage space. They are responsible for the planning. We only have to focus on the operational aspect.”, Verhaeghe explains, “Also, Het Anker benefits from extra production capacity at our site and is able to spread their risks over different countries.”
Based on his own experiences and expectations, he created the plans for this new hatchery himself, in collaboration with people from Het Anker. As for the equipment, software, climate control and guidance along the project, he opted for Petersime. “Partnering with Petersime for this project was an obvious choice”, Hans Verhaeghe tells us.
“Petersime of course, has a strong reputation, but we knew the products also firsthand. Our previous hatchery was equipped with Petersime incubators too, so we are aware of the solid quality of the products and the excellent service of the company.”
He chose to build a compact building with a setter room of 12 top-notch BioStreamer™12S, equipped with Operational Excellence Technology™, 8 hatchers Biostreamer™4H and Embryo-Response Incubation™. “For me, it was a dream coming true, being able to contrive and realize a new hatchery here.”.
As the hatchery produces 4 million-day-old chicks per year, Verhaeghe opted for semi-automation. “The human hand is still necessary”, he states, “Although machines are a great way to optimize your workflow, the involvement of people is still indispensable for many reasons such as control and maintenance of the equipment, bio-security and data management.”
And so, the plan became reality
While the old hatchery was still operational, the construction works for the new one started in April 2016. Although this had been a very intense period for the company, a wish became reality for Hans Verhaeghe on December 21st, 2016, when he could transfer the eggs from the old machines to the new ones. For him, this cooperation with Petersime lived up to his high expectations.
“We received a great customer service of people with a very strong expertise and knowhow. They clearly know the business and what’s important. Even the higher management was very involved and showed interest in our project.” He continues:
“I knew the incubators would be first-class, but what I recall the most from this project is the people at Petersime. The salesmen, engineers, technicians and other people involved were all very competent. They guided the project with such expertise and really impressed me, even after all my years in the business.”
Better results ensuring a bright future
Being operational for over a year now, the new hatchery brings along a lot of advantages. Lower energy and labor costs because of the new machines, HVAC and cleverly installed water recuperation being some of them. Verhaeghe also delivers better results in terms of chick quality and quantity. “We hatch a higher number of chicks and they are clearly stronger. Our customers abroad confirm this, since they see a higher number of chicks survive the long-distance transport.”
When we ask Hans Verhaeghe what he’s the most satisfied with, he doesn’t have to think twice: the Eagle Eye™ software package. He opted for this solution to gain more comfort and flexibility. “We are very glad that we did that. We feel more at ease and we don’t always have to be present at the hatchery as we can manage the incubators remotely. When necessary, we can take action faster and more effectively.” he says.
Because of the expansion, Hatchery Verhaeghe is now more independent, more flexible and delivers higher quality results. As the company is more in control and working with the newest technologies, they are now ready to face the next ambitions of the layer poultry business such as animal welfare and In-OVO sexing. A challenging job Hans Verhaeghe confidently looks forward to.