Culver Duck Takes a Common Sense Approach To A New Hatchery!

Culver Duck Farms Inc. – NatureFormCulver Duck Farms Inc. is a family owned business, based in Middlebury, Indiana, that takes pride in its work. The company raises and processes approximately 3.5 million ducks annually.

Culver Duck recognized the value of the Asian marketplace and set on a path to grow ducklings that could meet the high standards required for Peking duck and other oriental dishes. That commitment positioned Culver Duck favorably in the natural food market where quality is held to a higher standard and where Culver Duck’s product is the leader.

Warren W. Hallock, started the family business in 1858, when he began raising ducks in Speonk, N.Y. Since then, the company has relocated to its current location in Middlebury, which is “in the heart of Amish country”.

Culver Duck’s products include duck breasts and cooked duck halves in five flavors, as well as duck sausages in a variety of flavors – and even lotions, soaps, BBQ sauces and rubs, and chicken products. It supplies its products to restaurants and specialty stores around the world.

Culver Ducks – NatureFormThe company has earned numerous awards for its products. In 2008, of the 2,100-plus entries in 31 categories at the Summer NASFT Fancy Food Show in New York City, Culver Duck won a Sofi Silver Award for Outstanding Product Line, while its Roasted Duck Half took home a Sofi Silver Award in the Outstanding Diet and Lifestyle category.

In July of 2007 lighting caused a fire at the Culver Duck hatchery. Flames shot up for seven hours, consuming over 700,000 eggs and the entire hatchery. The decision was taken to design and build the best hatchery possible. Tim Rouch and Ruben Rico at Culver Duck were tasked to find the best systems available for their specific needs. “When it came to incubation equipment, we had no preconceived ideas and went to several different locations in the US to see the three major systems that were available. The systems that we looked at were all single stage as we were interested in incorporating the latest technology.”

One of the initial criteria that Tim looked at in incubation was how well the incubator would seal in order to optimize temperature, humidity, power consumption and CO2 control. Tim stated, “By getting in each of the different manufacture’s machines at the different locations and shutting the door, it was easy to determine if it was well sealed by seeing if there was light intrusion. The NatureForm Phoenix™ was the only machine where no light leakage could be detected. The machine is very well ventilated with an extensive cooling system.” With Tim being from a maintenance background he looked at equipment not only from a performance but also from a longevity and maintenance point of view. It was Tim’s opinion that the NatureForm machine would outlast and be easier and cheaper to maintain than the other machines because the quality of parts and construction were superior. “With the NatureForm machine the paneling is much more rigid and thicker than with the competitors machines and they use the smooth fiberglass skinned two inch blue insulation board which utilizes closed cell polystyrene which is highly resistant to air and water penetration. Some of the competitor’s machines use the cheaper and thinner open cell foam panels which allow water penetration causing considerable reduction in insulation value, bio-security, strength and lifespan of the machine itself. We were so impressed with the quality of panels used by Natureform we used the same panels to build our hallway ceilings and plenums. They are well insulated, easy to clean and are strong enough to support the weight of several grown men.

NatureForm Phoenix™ Machine

NatureForm’s ventilation technology is incorporated into the total design of the machine itself from the ground up, inside and out. Ductwork, fan housings, mixing chambers, belts, radiators, air channels and other after thoughts are not needed to compensate for design inadequacies. Also no disassembly is required for cleaning of any and all surfaces of the machine.

Natureform’s use of PID with “fuzzy logic” temperature and humidity control technology allows the most precise environmental control available today maximizing performance, dependability and energy efficiency while optimizing embryonic environment.

Culver Duck’s new hatchery was opened in June of 2009 incorporating the latest in technology in incubation and ventilation. It hatches and processes over 100K ducklings per week. According to Ruben Rico, Culver’s hatchery manager, “We are getting the best quality, performance and hatch that we have ever had. The hatch has improved between 4-5% over our old hatchery. That means a lot to us.”

NatureForm’s Sentinel™ Hatchery Control System for Culver Duck

Culver also uses NatureForm’s Sentinel™ hatchery control system. This system manages and monitors all incubators and hatchers as well as the entire building’s ventilation systems. The ventilation system in the hatchery is unique in that there is absolutely no ductwork in the entire building. This eliminates the difficult task of cleaning ductwork and the potential of contamination. All incoming air for the building is processed in the main hallway in the center of the building. The main cooling is provided by well water which stays between 55-60°F (13-15.6°C) saving the expense of having a chiller system. All setters and egg rooms are on one side of the hallway and all hatchers and processing are on the other. The system is designed so that even if all the doorways are left open there can be no cross contamination in the system. There is backup cooling and heating in the plenums above the setters and hatchers if needed. The air in the intake plenums is maintained within 1 degree of 75°F (24°C) all year long.

According to Tim, “Culver Duck is extremely happy with the decisions we have made in the design and equipment choices for our new hatchery. Our decision to use NatureForm systems in our hatchery has been an excellent choice. They have worked with us every step of the way during the design and construction of our facility and the service since startup has been excellent resulting in better than expected return on investment”.

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