Revolutionising poultry production: the impact of advanced hatchery automation

May 4, 2024

The poultry industry plays an active role in global food security, providing an accessible and nutritious source of protein for billions of people. At the heart of this industry are the hatcheries, responsible for incubating and hatching eggs into healthy, vigorous chicks. Hatchery automation is transforming this sector, bringing absolute efficiency, precision and profitability to the entire poultry production process. Modern hatchery automation technologies go far beyond simple temperature and humidity control systems. Here's how this system is revolutionising poultry production.

The need for automation

Traditional hatcheries face many challenges, such as human variability, tedious manual handling and the difficulty of maintaining consistent optimum incubation conditions. These challenges can lead to reduced hatch rates, increased labour costs and inconsistent chick quality.

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Automation tackles these problems head on by bringing unrivalled accuracy and consistency to the incubation environment. By integrating cutting-edge automation technologies hatcheries have reported up to a 30% increase in hatch rates significantly boosting productivity while simultaneously reducing the dependency on manual labor.

Automated systems can continuously monitor and control critical parameters such as temperature, humidity, ventilation and egg rotation, ensuring optimum conditions for embryo development.

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Key technologies in hatchery automation

Hatchery automation encompasses a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment, each bringing specific benefits to the incubation process. Key technologies include.

Robotic handling systems

These robots automate the delicate transfer of eggs between incubation stages, minimising human handling and reducing the risk of contamination and breakage.

Once incubation has begun, robots take over to carry out the meticulous transfers between the different temperature and humidity-controlled rooms. Each stage of embryonic development requires a specific environment, recreated to perfection by these ultra-modern facilities.

At the end of the process, when the chicks hatch, it's the robots again that gently pick them up and take them to the sorting and packaging areas. Throughout these operations, the risk of contamination is minimised by the elimination of human handling that could potentially carry pathogens.

Automated candling systems

Equipped with cameras and artificial intelligence algorithms, these systems detect non-viable eggs at an early stage, optimising the use of incubators and reducing waste.

These state-of-the-art systems combine high-resolution imaging equipment with artificial intelligence algorithms specially trained for embryo analysis. One by one, the eggs pass in front of high-definition cameras that capture detailed images of their internal contents. This data is then analysed in real time by the AI system.

Thanks to in-depth machine learning on huge databases of egg images, these algorithms are able to detect with great precision whether or not a viable embryo is present. They can also identify the tell-tale signs of anomalies or development problems.

Monitoring and control systems

Sophisticated sensors and software constantly collect and analyse critical data from the incubation environment, enabling real-time adjustments to be made to maintain optimum conditions.

These high-tech installations are based on a vast network of wireless sensors distributed throughout the incubation rooms. These continuously collect detailed data on the slightest variations in temperature, humidity, pressure, CO2 levels and so on. These data streams are centralised and analysed in real time by expert software.

Based on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, these programmes are capable not only of interpreting current environmental conditions, but also of modelling their likely short-term evolution. In this way, they can detect the slightest deviation even before it affects the embryos.

Data management systems

These systems centralise and analyse production data, providing valuable information on incubator performance, hatching rates and chick quality, enabling continuous process optimisation.

At the heart of these systems is a powerful software platform that centralises and unifies all the data flows from the various pieces of equipment. This provides a single source of information on the performance of the entire hatchery. This data is stored in secure databases that can be accessed via interactive dashboards.
But beyond this simple warehouse role, these systems are equipped with numerous advanced analysis tools enabling them to extract valuable insights. Using data mining, descriptive and predictive statistics algorithms, they identify potentially critical trends, correlations and anomalies.

Case studies

Many hatcheries around the world have successfully adopted automation technologies, with remarkable results. One notable example is a commercial hatchery in Brazil, which achieved a 5% increase in hatch rate and a 10% reduction in labour costs after implementing a full automation system.

In another case, a hatchery in the USA saw a significant improvement in chick quality and a reduction in losses after adopting an automatic candling system. These examples clearly demonstrate the positive impact that automation can have on hatchery productivity and efficiency.

Future trends

Hatchery automation is a constantly evolving field, with new technologies emerging that promise to further revolutionise the poultry industry. Promising future trends include.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is playing an increasingly important role in optimising incubation parameters, predictive analysis of hatch rates and early detection of potential problems.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Hatcheries will become increasingly connected, enabling real-time remote monitoring and control, as well as large-scale data collection and analysis.

Collaborative robotics

Hatchery automation is no longer limited to autonomous systems. The emergence of collaborative robotics, or 'cobots', is opening up new prospects for man-machine collaboration in this sector. These intelligent robots, designed to work in close collaboration with humans, bring greater flexibility and precision to incubation tasks.

Unlike traditional robots confined to secure cages, cobots are designed to interact safely with humans. Their compact size, fluid movements and integrated sensors enable them to navigate the hatchery work environment without posing a risk to operators.

Conclusion

Hatchery automation is a driving force behind the modernisation of the poultry industry. By improving the efficiency, accuracy and profitability of incubation, it enables hatcheries to produce healthier, more vigorous chicks, contributing to a more sustainable and productive poultry supply chain.