5 questions with Big Dutchman CEO Bernd Meerpohl

Executive talks the future of poultry houses.
Melanie Epp
April 17, 2019
By Melanie Epp
Bernd Meerpohl is CEO of Big Dutchman and chairman of the EuroTier Expert Advisory Board.
Bernd Meerpohl is CEO of Big Dutchman and chairman of the EuroTier Expert Advisory Board. Melanie Epp
At November’s EuroTier trade fair in Hanover, German, Big Dutchman CEO Bernd Meerpohl spoke about the future of poultry houses. A Canadian Poultry correspondent interviewed him at the event about that topic, as well as about challenges and opportunities facing the industry and his thoughts on the perfect poultry barn.

How do you see the poultry barn of the future?
There’s no doubt that the entire world is going to look at more animal welfare questions and it will also look at more sustainability. These are words that are often overused, but there is no doubt that it will move towards that.

This will, of course, also mean we need to look more at sensor technology to better understand where the problem points in the poultry barn are. That’s true for broilers as well as for layers.

We need to better understand what’s happening in the barn so we can adapt better than we are already. I think we are already pretty good, but there’s still a ways to go.

How about in terms of sustainability?
Yes, what I also see in the poultry barn of the future is that we will need to look at sustainability and economic points, as we have to feed maybe nine to 10 billion people in the future. We can’t gain on the one hand through animal welfare and environmental improvements, and lose on effectiveness. And that’s exactly why I believe we will need more measuring and more sensors.

Are there specific technologies that you think will be disruptors?
I think there are a few robotic solutions that could certainly be game changers. One thing that is already here today – not in the finally stages, but in the beginnings – is the in-egg chicken sexing. I think that is a game changer if we can use it. It’s being done, but the question is, it good enough yet? None of them are yet where they should be, but I tip my hat at what they are doing, for sure.

Which regulations present a challenge for poultry producers?
What I’m a bit afraid of, to be honest, is that very small minorities are influencing politics, particularly in building permits. We have already seen this in Germany. It is already close to a point where we can’t do anything anymore. On the one hand, people are saying we need more animal welfare. And if I say, ‘Okay, I need a hole in the wall to let the chickens out,’ then I need completely new permits. That’s really a difficult subject.

What does the perfect poultry barn look like?
It would not be a free-range barn – for the purposes of influenza and so on. It would be an in-house barn, and it would be an aviary system – a real aviary system. It would be, depending on the location, solar powered. It would be pretty transparent with a lot of glass, and it would try to turn manure into electricity as well, so essentially a closed system regarding electricity and waste control. That’s what I would dream of.

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