Optimizing the poultry value chain is crucial in this time when hatcheries are becoming larger and more integrated and end customers are putting more pressure on the total chain. This article sheds a light on how the use of big data can improve the overall performance of hatcheries as well as of the entire value chain.
The growing importance of value chain optimization
Optimizing the poultry value chain has become ever more important. First, the poultry meat and egg consumption continues to increase as a result of the growing average consumption per person in certain regions of the world, as well as the general population growth. To meet this rising demand, poultry companies are evolving from small, local enterprises into large, integrated businesses. Second, modern consumers want to know what is inside their food, where it is from and how it is produced. Because of this, retailers are putting more pressure on the value chain. Not only do they want consistent volumes and quality at a low cost, but they also demand full compliance in terms of food safety and traceability.
To meet these ever-increasing requirements, each poultry chain segment has to deliver the best possible quality in the most efficient way to the next segment, so that in the end, overall quality and efficiency of the value chain are guaranteed.
Hatcheries: a key stage in poultry production
Hatcheries play a key role in the value chain as it is their job to maximize the genetic potential that is inside the hatching eggs to ensure a reliable output of healthy, uniform day-old chicks. In daily practice, this means planning millions of hatching eggs with different backgrounds (not only relating to flock type, but also the conditions experienced by the egg prior to incubation), fitting them into several setters per day making sure to establish correct loading while dealing with variable operator skills, delivering millions of healthy, uniform chicks to many customers, and analysing figures such as mortality and meat yield.
Clearly, that is not an easy job. At the same time, it is notable how much data hatcheries have available without fully using that data to facilitate their operations and improve their performance. Being the nerve centre of the value chain, hatcheries connect different segments of the poultry industry, including breeders, broiler farms and layer farms. It involves a massive amount of data that can be captured, analysed and used, such as:
- Breeder performance
- Egg storage time
- Cause of embryonic mortality (breakout analysis)
- Records of machine parameters
However, this data is often kept in hand-written records, or, when digitized, the common method is to use spreadsheets or separate software systems that are not able to communicate with each other, meaning that the data is scattered across these systems rather than united in one place. Consequently, hatchery data is often not being used to its fullest potential.