Canadian Poultry Magazine

Taking the Next Step in Automation

By David Schmidt   

Features Business & Policy Trade David Schmidt Poultry Production Taking the Next Step in Automation

Although egg-packing units are a common  enough sight on Canadian layer farms, many hatching egg producers still pack all their eggs by hand since hatcheries require producers to remove small and oversized eggs before shipping.

In recent years, however, hatching egg producers have been installing more automated packing equipment. Len and Angela Groothof of Mountain View Farms in Abbotsford, B.C., are the first hatching egg producers in North America to take the next step in automation.

When the Groothofs recently built their third layer barn to accommodate their 58,530-bird quota, they took the opportunity to link all three barns to a Staalkat egg packer with a grading attachment that not only packs all the standard-sized eggs, but also automatically sorts out the small (below 52 grams) and jumbo eggs onto separate trays. In early March, they and their supplier, United Agri Systems (UAS), invited local broiler hatching egg producers to see the new system.


They got a lot of curious visitors, anxious to see the operation and decide whether or not to adopt the system on their own farms. Although suitably impressed, some suggested the payback was not enough to justify the additional costs.

Len Groothof says payback was not the issue: saving himself and his wife labour and improving accuracy were the things he wanted to do, and he has achieved these goals.

“The system is much less work. I get much better accuracy than I would get from hand sorting and the eggs are packed in half the time.”

The Groothofs also added a tunnel ventilation system in the new barn capable of moving 30,000 cubic feet of air/minute.

The new 42- by 450-foot barn is a virtual carbon copy of the existing two barns. UAS’s Leo Apperloo calls that the sign of “a happy customer.”

However, it does have the addition of a tunnel ventilation system: four end-mounted 52-inch fans (30), each capable of moving 30,000 cubic feet of air per minute, linked to a bank of radiators at the far end of the barn. The system is designed to automatically kick in when the temperature goes 5 C above a preset amount.

Noting he has been guaranteed barn temperature will never exceed 25 C, Groothof says that is better than misters can do on a hot day.

While those hot days do not occur often on the west coast, when they do, they can devastate poultry flocks. As a result, tunnel ventilation is being put in all the new poultry barns and being retrofitted into more existing barns.

“I expect 40 to 50 per cent of Fraser Valley poultry barns to have tunnel ventilation within five years,” Apperloo says, noting UAS alone has put the system into more than 20 barns in the past 18 months.

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