Jansen Poultry Equipment operates on the philosophy that happy, healthy chickens lead to improved production, and this idea underlines its work in developing innovative equipment for poultry farms.

Jansen Poultry Equipment has been in business for 33 years, but since 2015, it has focused more on turnkey solutions for poultry farms, including systems for ventilation, climate control, egg quality and compost. Among its current projects, the firm is working with researchers at Wageningen University in cooperation with students and researchers from Aeres to determine the best possible environment for poultry, with a particular focus on broiler breeders.

“I think the biggest thing that makes Jansen Poultry different from other parties is that we are not looking at what people want – we are looking at what the birds want, and from there we develop our products,” said Chief Technical Officer Erik den Besten.

The company aims to keep broilers as much as possible out of their manure, for their own health as well as to produce positive knock-on effects for the environment, such as less ammonia and, further down the line, less use of antibiotics. However, den Besten suggests the legislative requirements for scratching areas for broilers versus laying hens are contradictory, hence the work with Wageningen University and Aeres group to work out exactly what benefits hens.

“We are investigating whether broilers need a scratching area and if so, how much,” he said. “For us, it’s totally strange that broilers need 100% scratching area while layers need 33 to 50%. You have to keep broilers on the floor. After a few weeks you get a lot of health problems and injuries because of the manure…If you could keep the broilers on slats it would be much healthier for them.”

To work out the optimal proportion of slatted flooring and scratching area, the company has built a hen house with around 1000 broilers who are given access to both. Wageningen and Aeres students will monitor how the birds behave at different times of the day over the next two to five years, and the areas available will be gradually adjusted according to their observations.

“This investigation has never been done,” den Besten said. “As soon as we know if a broiler needs 70% slat floor we can win a lot for the poultry farmers.”

The company gained recognition for developing the first automatic laying nests, which it produced and introduced to the market in 1986. Now, Jansen Poultry continues to expand its product range with innovative systems and equipment, focusing on optimising production by taking an integral approach.

“People are aware of the problems there are,” said den Besten, adding that awareness has been growing in recent years. “A few years ago it was only ammonia and welfare, but over the past few years we have been talking a lot more about ammonia and fine dust in combination with antibiotics.”

When it comes to antibiotic use, he is convinced that slatted flooring would allow for a significant reduction.

“We are working on a lot of things in The Netherlands, but we are thinking globally,” he said. “In Egypt, there are more than 40 million broilers on slats without antibiotics…In the Netherlands we are very happy with a reduction of antibiotics of 50%, which is a very big reduction, but it is still high.”

Jansen Poultry Equipment has taken its decades of experience in developing systems for poultry housing and continues to apply it to new technologies, including products for reducing emissions, such as heat exchangers, air scrubbers and manure drying systems.

“We are looking for the best solutions for the chickens, for the environment and for the health of the chicken farmers,” said den Besten.

Attracting young talent to the poultry industry

The Poultry Expertise Centre (PEC) was founded in 2013 to help attract young professionals to the poultry industry – and although the project cannot take all the credit, the tide is beginning to turn.

Eltjo Bethlehem, Business Manager at the PEC, says the centre was formed after industry recognised a rapidly ageing demographic within the sector and wanted to do something to reverse the trend.

“There is and was a challenge,” said Bethlehem. “Expertise is flowing away because people are retiring, and in the meantime there are not enough young professionals in the sector.”

Working together with governmental organisations, industry and educational institutions, the PEC aims to develop vocational training and applied sciences programmes to serve the poultry sector, and specifically to reach young people aged 16 to 25. Among its projects, it has developed an e-learning platform to enable distance learning, has worked on new curricula for poultry students, and organises events with poultry firms.

“When you are talking about the interested students on a vocational level and applied sciences level, in the past three years we have seen growth of about 10 to 15% per year of students starting in this sector,” Bethlehem said. “It’s not only a success of the Poultry Expertise Centre – it’s also a success of the industry, but I would like to say we have had a role in that.”

The poultry sector is an important contributor to the Dutch economy – including Foodvalley, which is home to a large number of poultry companies – and the Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of poultry products behind the USA. It often exports to countries where the poultry industry is just starting out.

“We have a main role in the world when we are talking about poultry,” Bethlehem said. “We have many innovations to show and much knowledge to export to these countries. Our knowledge supports the selling of products all over the world.”

The PEC runs a poultry innovation lab on site in Barneveld, which is a small poultry farm that allows it to showcase innovative ideas for the future of poultry farming and to highlight practical research projects. These include day-to-day issues such as innovative watering and housing systems, but the centre also focuses on some of the biggest issues facing the poultry industry in the Netherlands and around the world, including the use of regionally produced proteins in poultry feed, environmental pollution, and health care.