As a farmer of laying hens, Jos Nelissen has always made maximum use of scientific knowledge, research and data collection. It is therefore no surprise that he is the first in the Netherlands to use the Select, Count and Detect from Vencomatic Group's Meggsius series; 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 his parents' farm in Oirlo, Limburg, he has been looking for knowledge with which he can improve poultry farming. "After taking over the company in 1990, we broadened our horizons in various parts of the world. We were curious about other ways to run a poultry farm".
The journey around the world opened up new perspectives and sowed the seeds for a new company that Jos and Marieëtte founded in 2006. Jos: "An egg is a very beautiful product; everything for the growth of the chick is in it". The goal was to also use the egg as a powerful source of human health. In the meantime, this has 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 great deal of scientific research is needed, and it is a good thing that my passion lies in science. I have learned to develop scientific research and to cooperate with scientists and technicians".
The current Nelissen poultry farm uses two sites in Oirlo with 70,000 laying hens at one and 60,000 at the other. "The sites are 300 metres apart with a road in between. I didn't want a new shed so the egg transport is just under the road". At both locations it's all about free range and Jos has been sourcing his laying hens from breeder Lohman for thirty years. Nelissen has fitted out his two sheds with the Bolegg Terrace system from Vencomatic Group. "As far as I'm concerned, this easily ventilated aviary system stands for 'twice as beautiful': nice movement for the chicken, and a nice overview of the animals for humans.
Jos Nelissen keeps looking at his laying hens from 'the base' through scientific glasses. "It's important for us to use scientific insights to make the chickens happy as much as possible. That leads to good productions. You pay close attention to the feed, climate and light. But above all you have to screen the behaviour of the animals". Jos has cameras in his stables and so he made an important observation. "When we go into the barn with the vet, we look at colour, the condition of the plumage and of course at the behaviour of the hens. Through the cameras I learned that the hens show different behaviour when you are in the barn. 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 with which the information can be analysed. "Collecting information as efficiently and automatically as possible leads to more job satisfaction, but above all provides new insights". With the dashboard it is easier to combine different pieces of information, so that it is often possible to see at an early stage that something is going on. "In poultry farming we are often doomed to symptoms. In our company we can now look for the cause even better. That is why we want to retrieve as much data as possible so that we can often pick up the signal at an early stage that something is wrong".
Thinking at the chicken level
In order to get even more useful information from his laying hen farm, Jos Nelissen already had egg counters with a data link to his dashboard. "But the Meggsius Count from Vencomatic that I now have is much more accurate". His employees have helped set up the data processing of the Meggsius series. Jos: "The collaboration with Vencomatic is going well. There are people working there who know how to handle chickens, and they also have the technicians who can work out the ideas. Vencomatic can think well at the chicken level". Meggsius Count works with cameras on the egg belts that map out the egg flow so that ultimately the total logistic process of the eggs can be regulated. According to Jos Nelissen, 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 barn an egg has been laid. If through the Meggsius Count it appears that a certain part of the house has eggs that deviate from the normal image, you can go and see what might be wrong on the spot".
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 and with which camera images are made 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 photos to measure the circumference of the egg and thus calculate the egg weight. That egg weight tells me something about the condition of the chickens. Because you take a lot of photos, your perception is representative and you can draw well-founded conclusions. In this way, we can see new connections, which gives us an even better grasp of the management".
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 presents itself, two poles short-circuit after which the supply line stops. One leaking egg normally means fifteen other dirty eggs and a dirty machine; now you can prevent all of that with this". With this Meggsius product too, all data is recorded and put into 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 something wrong with a surrender on the supply line. Jos: "The Detect is a real genius; it contributes a lot to a higher egg quality!
Jos Nelissen is satisfied with the technical performance of the Select, Count and Detect. "It leads directly to extra egg quality and efficiency. And for our employees it provides convenience, overview and therefore job satisfaction. In addition, we can also reduce real labour, we process our eggs faster every day with fewer people. In the past, we used to pick up at 2 locations 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 according to Jos because the new products from the Meggsius range are linked to his dashboard. "I now have a lot of new data at my disposal which I can combine with the other information from the barn. I am sure that we will see new correlations and that we will learn things that we did not yet know. With this new knowledge we will be able to increase animal welfare even more so that they will eventually be comfortable all year round and be able to produce without any problems and more easily".