Data takes the hunch out of poultry production

29-08-2018 | |
How a flock of broilers or layers is doing often comes down to guesswork, but that now coming to an end with new ERP-systems. Photo: Hans Prinsen
How a flock of broilers or layers is doing often comes down to guesswork, but that now coming to an end with new ERP-systems. Photo: Hans Prinsen

How do we exploit data we collect on our farms? How do we maintain oversight? Mike Jansen and Wim Polman from PoultryPlan have developed a clever software suite to help poultry integrations overcome the gap between hunch and putting data to work.

In the interconnected world of today we collect an unimaginable amount of data and that is not leaving the poultry industry untouched. There was a time when poultry farmers were accustomed to roughly estimating a chicken’s feed and water intake when the bottom of the grain silo had come into sight. The determination of egg weight and body weight often did not go beyond pure guesswork, and integrated operations sent data by mail or fax. This is now a thing of the past. We are living in the data era. More data than ever before is also being collected in the poultry sector. This unimaginable amount of data has also helped the poultry sector into a digital transformation. The sharing of data via fax has found its way to sharing data via e-mail or the cloud. The current account no longer determines whether a hunch was correct or not. Fact based analyses are helping farmers to make even better decisions.

Interpreting data

And this has resulted in certain challenges. “The more data we collect, the more useful information and insights we acquire,” says Mike Jansen, managing director of the ERP-system PoultryPlan, which was recently launched at VIV Europe in Utrecht, the Netherlands. “That is, if data is subsequently analysed. If not, it simply remains a collection of meaningless data. By interpreting the data being collected, you acquire insight into how to help your farm advance.”

Wim Polman, spiritual father of PoultryPlan: “In our work we noticed how easy it is for employees on a farm to work in silos and fail to work with the information learned from the data. To overlook certain key figures.” He realised that when data was not shared, the opportunity to improve a product or a sector as a whole was lost. “The smart use of data is about a mindset. A new approach to assembling data from different links to create an optimal end-product as a result.” Every poultry farmer, every parent stock farmer and every hatchery has a need for more information about the history of a chicken or egg before it arrives. This wish led to the development of a software suite to support this. Polman’s idea and Jansen’s knowledge of IT resulted in a company comprising of several specialists who jointly developed the software suite PoultryPlan. “PoultryPlan is an ERP system that covers the entire poultry meat or egg chain, which consists of several modules and records all technical data directly from production companies. It compares results in a benchmark view and analyses performance. An early warning system detects problems at an early stage. This and the efficient processes should lead to considerable cost savings. There is room in the software package for order processing and planning and recording logistical actions. “It provides integrations with a single clear overview of all relevant data,” explains Mr Jansen. “The beauty of this system is that it was truly developed from the poultry industry perspective. Our developers know how people in the industry work and think, how they plan, how the sales process works and, above all, how software can truly support those processes.” PoultryPlan is cloudbased, accessible at all times and from everywhere, which is highly valued by its users.

Connecting the entire production chain

PoultryPlan was launched at VIV Europe in June this year. Mr Jansen: “We heard positive feedback on the fact that it can be used chain-wide. It doesn’t merely cover a few links, but the entire chain.” Poultry Plan is a solution for companies in the poultry meat and laying chain. The software package can be used at each link in the poultry chain, from parent stock to laying hens to broilers, from production through to planning and administration. Mr Jansen spoke with a representative of a large poultry meat integration, who suffered from enormous losses with every percent decrease in chicken fillet. “He didn’t dare to adjust their production, as he lacked data that could steer him in the right direction. Adjusting the production in the wrong direction would result in even bigger losses. That is why he left things the way they were. Insight in validated production data would have showed him exactly what production changes he had to make in order to avert weight loss and save money.” Developing partner Ter Heerdt N.V. saved tens of thousands of euro’s by examining the switch over moments between feed types in rearing. “To have the right data present and have actual insight in the effect of it is indispensable for making management decisions. I think it is astonishing how many – some very large – companies still work with Excel sheets. Multimillion-dollar companies that send their production data in Excel sheets back and forth, never knowing whether or not you are working in the latest version. This still happens. Who knows how much money is lost due to this. More knowledge and a smart tool offer timely opportunities for interventions and for adjusting operations, with better margins as a result. A smart tool such as PoultryPlan simplifies this task. It enables you to manage on the basis of facts and trends, directly tackle any issues and make smarter decisions faster. Oversight provides certainty and consequently calm.”

Necessity data integration

Although PoultryPlan was developed by market leader Ter Heerdt N.V. over a course of more than ten years. As an answer to market demands it was decided to bring PoultryPlan onto the international market in order to help other integrations grow. According to Mr Jansen, the necessity to use data in your (semi) integration is undeniable. According to the UN’s prognoses, the global population will reach 9 billion people by 2050. Due to this, the demand for high-quality protein such as eggs and poultry is increasing enormously. The requirements that poultry farms and chain integrations must meet are becoming increasingly stringent. “We have embraced a mindset that enables us to manage our farms or integration on the basis of reason rather than emotion. That enables us to exploit and analyse data and pass it on to the next link. This is what will help us advance as a global poultry sector. In the end, everyone in the sector has the same ultimate goal in mind: better, more sustainable, healthier and safer production with less.”

Marleen Teuling Correspondent