Dec 2, 2020
We are excited to announce that Willmar Poultry Innovations (LSI R&D) has signed an exclusivity deal with HatchTech, out of the Netherlands, to the be sole distributor of their HatchCare technology in the U.S. and Canada. This is a big milestone in the “HeadStart Project” that our R&D arm has been focused on for the past 1.5 years! You can read an initial story in the press here:
Our next goal is to measure the amount of extra value a poult will deliver to a customer when marketed if started on feed, water, and light immediately at hatch. The HatchCare machine is the only product on the market that can accomplish this service. If you’re curious to see how this works, you can view videos on the system (currently used with chickens). Here’s a link to one example:
You may be wondering…if these HatchCare machines have been used in chickens all these years, why hasn’t it been used in turkeys? Turkeys and chickens are pretty similar right? Surprisingly, they are much different in anatomy and behaviors. Turkey poults (baby turkeys) are larger and more fragile than chicks (baby chickens) and are more sensitive to temperature and light changes. Poults need a little extra encouragement to drink water at the beginning of their life whereas chicks have an easier time finding water. Because of these differences between the two, there is a need for modifications to the process/machines and extra testing to ensure the best solution is created for these newborn poults.
Over the past two years, our team has been focused on identifying the many pros and cons of implementing a turkey HatchCare system, and the data we have uncovered is exciting! After solving key issues, and confirming small-scale positive results many times in side-by-side controlled tests, we committed to building a system scaled-up to run large trials so we can compare full barns of our birds vs. full barns of control birds coming out of standard hatching processes. Covid has made this a much slower, more painful process to accomplish – but we’re getting it done!
To create a facility to run large-scale turkey trials, we’re repurposing a building to achieve the scale needed for testing. One of our major hurdles this year has been installation! These highly complex HatchCare machines usually require an experienced technical supervisor on-site for 4-6 weeks per machine, but Covid has restricted HatchTech from sending a technician from Europe. HatchTech proposed an innovative work-around, and we have been receiving remote support from Holland via a Microsoft Hololens 2 (an augmented reality headset). Without this technology, we would have never achieved our most recent milestone; our first HatchCare machine has been powered up!
(Ray Norling with the Hololens on; Jason Burnett looking on.)
Our HatchCare machine, paired with Nova-Tech equipment, a Viscon Heartbeat detection transfer line, and a specialized HatchTraveller delivery trailer will create the backbone of the technology used to execute our large-scale process. Recently, we teamed up with WPF and Select Genetics to execute a pair of initial major runs. We are happy to announce that the HatchCare machine worked great! The days were long and grueling, but we learned a ton. Our next large egg placement is set for the first week in January.
In the meantime, we’re focused on further optimization of our processes, installation of additional equipment, and improved coordination with our partners. Solidifying a system will unlock our ability to place large-scale trials weekly out of this facility and measure poult improvement all the way to the processing plant. Once we measure concrete benefit out of this new custom hatching system, we intend to launch a new custom hatching business for the organization to serve this unique niche and revolutionize turkey hatching!
Our organization’s core value of stewardship is central to this project. Without this mindset that drives our decision making, we would not have these innovative research & development projects that will keep our organization around for generations to come. Our definition of stewardship is, “Our investment of time, talent, and treasure will do great things in the long run. We make decisions based on our responsibility to our employees, our customers, our stakeholders and our community.” Not only will this project help our organization grow, but it will increase the quality of life of the turkeys in our care, create value in our community with more job opportunities, and increase the quality of poults that our customers receive.