Next step in smart poultry farming

As a layer hen farmer, Jos Nelissen has always made maximum use of scientific knowledge, research and data collection. It is therefore no surprise that he is the first person in the Netherlands to use the Select, Count and Detect from the Meggsius series of Vencomatic Group; three new products with which Nelissen can take the next step in smart poultry farming.

From the moment Jos Nelissen (57) and his wife Marieëtte (55) took over the company from his parents in Oirlo, Limburg, he has been looking for information on how to improve the laying poultry farm. "After taking over the company in 1990, we broadened our horizons in various places around the world. We were curious about other ways to run a laying poultry farm."

Powerful source
The journey around  the world provided new perspectives, and thus the seed was sown for a new company that Jos and Marieëtte founded in 2006. Jos: "An egg is a very beautiful product. It contains everything the chick needs to grow." The goal was to also use the egg as a powerful source of human health. This has now resulted in patented food products for maintaining eye and brain health and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. "For the development and patenting of food products for human health, it is necessary to build up dossiers similar to those for pharmaceuticals. A lot of scientific research is needed, so it is a good thing that my passion lies in science. I've learned to set up scientific research and to collaborate with scientists and technicians."

Back to 'the basics’
Nelissen's current poultry farm uses two locations in Oirlo with 70,000 layer hens in one location and 60,000 in the other. "The locations are 300 meters apart with a road in between them. I didn't want a new building, so the egg transport just goes under the road." At both locations, it's all about free-range and Jos has been sourcing his layer hens from breeder Lohman for thirty years. Nelissen has furnished his two houses with the Bolegg Terrace system from the Vencomatic Group. "As far as I'm concerned, this easily ventilated aviary system stands for 'twice as nice': good exercise for the hens, and a good overview of the animals for the humans."

Scientific perspective
Jos Nelissen may have gone back to 'the basics' (the layer hens business), but he continues looks at his layer hens through a scientific perspective. "It's important for us to use scientific insights to look after the needs of the hens as much as possible. That leads to good yields. You need to pay close attention to the feeding line, climate and light. But most of all, you have to screen the behaviour of the animals." Jos has cameras in his houses to help him make important observations. "When we enter the house with the vet, we look at the colours, the condition of the plumage and of course the behaviour of the hens. Through the cameras, I learned that the hens show different behaviour when you are in the house. The behaviour you observe through the cameras is much more natural and can be done 24/7 and has taught us to detect stress better and faster so you can anticipate it."

Knowing the cause
Jos collects all information about his hens automatically as much as possible, after which everything comes together in the dashboard, which is also when the information can be analysed. "The most efficient and automated collection of information leads to greater job satisfaction, but above all, it provides new insights." The dashboard makes it easier to combine different pieces of information, which often makes it possible to see at an early stage that something is going on. "In poultry farming, we're often doomed to treating the symptoms. In our company, however, we are now in a better position where we can look for the cause. That's why we want to retrieve as much data as possible so that we can often detect signals at an early stage that something is wrong."

Perspective of the chicken
To retrieve even more useful information from his layer hen farm, Jos Nelissen already had egg counters with a data link to his dashboard. "But the Meggsius Count from Vencomatic I have now is much more accurate." His employees have helped to set up the data processing of the Meggsius series. Jos: "The collaboration with Vencomatic is going well. The people who work there truly understand hens, and they also have technicians who can develop ideas. Vencomatic understands things from the perspective of the chicken." The Meggsius Count works with cameras on the egg belts that map the egg flow so that the total logistics process of the eggs can ultimately be controlled. In Jos Nelissen’s opinion, Meggsius Count is a good example of smart poultry farming. "In combination with a pulse counter and linked to the right software, Meggsius Count can tell you in which part of the house an egg has been laid. If it appears through the Meggsius Count that eggs are coming from a certain part of the house that deviates from the normal image, you can go and see what might be wrong on the spot."

Well-founded conclusions
Of the products that Vencomatic Group developed especially for smart poultry farming, Jos Nelissen also uses the Meggsius Select. This is a unit that is placed in front of the packer, which makes camera images of every egg that passes by. In this way, second-choice eggs can be sorted, and the photos also provide a lot of extra data. "For example, you can use the pictures to measure the circumference of the egg and thus calculate the egg weight. That egg weight tells me something about the condition of the hens. Because you take a lot of pictures, your observation is representative, and you can draw well-founded conclusions. In this way, we can see new connections that allow us to get an even better grip on management."

Truly genius
Jos Nelissen is particularly enthusiastic about Vencomatic Group's Meggsius Detect. This new product detects leaking eggs before they reach the packer. Jos: "When I first saw the Detect, I thought, ‘I want it’. When a leaking or wet egg is encountered, two poles short-circuit and the supply line stops. One leaking egg normally means fifteen other dirty eggs and a dirty machine; now you can avoid all that with this." Also, with this Meggsius product, all data is recorded and put in the dashboard. For example, if the Detect stops the supply line thirty times in a row, it could mean that the eggshells are not good. But it can also mean that there is so mething wrong with a transfer on the supply line. Jos: "The Detect is truly a genius; it contributes a great deal to higher egg quality!"

New correlations
Jos Nelissen is happy with the technical performance of the Select, Count and Detect. "It leads directly to higher egg quality and efficiency. It is also very convenient for our employees, it gives them a better overview and therefore more job satisfaction. We can also reduce real labour; we process our eggs faster every day with fewer people. We used to collect the eggs in two places, with 1 person per packing machine at each location.  Now 1 person can keep almost the entire line with the same number of eggs." Even greater added value is created, in Jos’s opinion, because the new products from the Meggsius range are linked to his dashboard. "I now have a lot of new data that I can combine with the other information from the house. I'm sure we're going to see new correlations, and we're going to learn things that we didn't already know. With this new knowledge, we can further improve animal welfare to make them feel more comfortable all year round, and thereby produce easier and without any difficulty."