Many years ago, a customer told me that if I could sell him a product or service that would give him a return on his investment within one to two years, it would be in his words, “a no brainer” and he would, without doubt and hesitation, buy.
During a business trip to Japan last year I revisited Yamamoto’s hatchery still equipped with Buckeye SM24, trolley based, multistage incubators and Streamliner hatchers that I sold to them almost 25 years ago when I was then co-owner and managing director of Buckeye International Ltd. At a quick glance the equipment still looked in pretty good shape but after a closer inspection I could see that they were clearly showing the signs of old age. Not surprising and completely reasonable considering that these incubators had most probably been working hard for 24 hours a day, 365 days per year for the past 25 years. It sounds pretty good when put this way, but, in my mind, I was asking – just how much this could be costing them in lost performance and more especially profitability?
The mechanical overhead turning system and pivot points on the trolleys were one of my biggest concerns. They were both showing quite severe signs of wear and fatigue and it was clearly obvious that this would be causing a huge deficiency on turning angles, which when measured were in some cases considerably less than 35 degrees. Clearly this would be having a significant effect on hatch and chick quality, not to mention their bottom line. Apart from these turning issues there were other obvious areas of concern not with-standing the inherent issues of operating equipment that was developed utilising technology that is over 25 years old.
Today, things are much different. We have learnt a great deal over the past 25 years and have grown to understand more precisely the science and requirements of incubation and what is needed to maximise hatchability and chick quality. EmTech firmly believes in temperature uniformity throughout the entire egg mass and strive to provide the tightest temperature bandwidth as possible so that all developing embryos experience the same environmental conditions in order that they will all hatch within a very short hatch window.
Finned cooling coils were commonly used in the Buckeye SM setter range. They were limited in capacity, inefficient, and were easily clogged with feathers and other debris brought in from the breeder houses. They were almost impossible to clean and were not positioned correctly. Today, our similar NovaTech system uses smooth copper cooling coils providing a considerably greater cooling capacity. Furthermore, they are easy to clean and they have been re-positioned to ensure the most efficient operation.
Air velocity, pressure and airflow direction is critical in creating a homogenous environment and a uniform temperature throughout the entire egg mass. Overhead fan-board assemblies have now been completely redeveloped using a higher capacity, efficient and more powerful motor. The air inlet cowling has been completely redesigned to create a significantly higher air volume and pressure – particularly at floor level. This greatly enhances the air and gas distribution throughout the entire NovaTech cabinet.
The principal of mixing compressed air and water through an atomiser to create a vapour-like means of incubator humidification was a great innovation at the time. Unfortunately, this system had inherent faults and frequently suffered blockages and dripping nozzles caused by calcium deposits and debris particles blocking the atomiser nozzle. Today we use the very same principles of mixing compressed air and water but now we use a self-cleaning atomiser that cleans the nozzle during every operation and tightly closes it when not in operation. This efficiently eliminates drips and the wetting of eggs.
After we completed our tour of the hatchery, I sat with the customer to review my observations and to discuss some of the issues and concerns I had over production and the potential financial losses that were almost certainly occurring. I explained how we could help to reverse the situation with some refurbishment and by re-modernising their equipment to the same standards as that of our current NovaTech range. This would also allow them to operate their SM multistage setters in single stage mode, if so desired, owing to the increased airflow and cooling capacity.
Understandably their concerns were focused on what a refurbishment program would cost and their doubts and suspicions that it may not work. Despite their apprehensions, Yamamoto eventually agreed to upgrade two of their SM24 walk-in setters. The upgrades included the removal of their mechanical turning system and replaced with individual on-trolley 24volt turning actuators, the replacement of trolley turning components, fan boards, cooling coils and humidifiers. Yamamoto also committed to upgrading cooling coils in two hatchers with the EmTech high capacity coils used in the latest VidaTech models. It is important to note that the increase in cooling capacity not only improves the cooling efficiency but also allows the temperature of cooling water to be raised slightly which reduces condensation and chick fluff build-up on the coils and saves energy.
Several months after the upgrades had been installed Yamamoto sent me a copy of their very detailed trial report. It compared, on a like for like basis, the production of their existing equipment with that of the machines that had been recently upgraded. Their report covered 16 sets over an 80-day period and in every single field the results show highly significant production improvements for their refurbished machines.
The full report is available here, but in summary the conversion from embryo to commercial chicks was up by 4.1% and the hatchability of all eggs set was 3.3% better than the machines that had not been upgraded. As a guide, the capacity of a SM24 setter is 114,048 eggs. For each 1% increase in saleable chicks per annum, at an average UK selling price of £0.30 per chick, the increase in revenue amounts to a staggering £5,930.00 pa. Yes, almost £6,000 p.a. for every 1% increase!
Based on the increased performance as shown in Yamamoto’s own results the full upgrade investment cost will be fully recovered in less than one year.
By John Russell – EmTech Sales and Business Development