Training in the USA: hands-on knowledge sharing in hatchery management

Training is a unique contributor to NatureForm’s rapid growth across the USA and Canada and, earlier this year, a group of 14 hatchery professionals came together to take part in a three-day Hatchery Management Training programme.

Hosted by NatureForm, the course was delivered by Pas Reform Academy and included access to House of Raeford’s fully integrated new hatchery in South Carolina. The course is not limited to customers of NatureForm and Pas Reform, although delegates must work in a managerial or senior role with responsibility for day-to-day hatchery management. On this occasion, attendance included delegates from leading hatcheries and a vaccine supplier.

The importance of people

“We may all recognise the increasing role of automation and data-based software and systems in the modern hatchery,” says course director Gerd de Lange, “but people are vital to the success of any hatchery operation.

“It takes good, up-to-date knowledge, high levels of skill and not least a positive, proactive attitude to deliver optimal production results. Machines and clever systems are only as good as the people operating them and translating results to fine-tune performance.”

With this belief at the heart of the Hatchery Management course, Pas Reform Academy’s approach to training is highly interactive.

The course is designed to strengthen participants’ skills in three areas: the evaluation and analysis of hatchery performance; the ability to recognize weaknesses in egg handling and incubation procedures and remedy them using the “tools” provided, and the knowledge to modify egg handling and incubation processes, to improve hatchery performance.

Prior to attending, participants are invited to pre-submit key questions that they would like to have answered. This ensures that as well as learning from trainers about the most up-to-date research and the very latest techniques being employed in hatcheries worldwide, delegates also have the chance to share experiences and insights with each other.

Egg to chick optimisation: training for results

In South Carolina, a variety of topics, from ‘egg quality from breeder farm to hatchery’ to ‘hatchery climate control’, were discussed and supported by presentations.

For practical sessions and hands-on training, House of Raeford’s state-of-the-art hatchery hosted two visits, the first focusing on the egg receiving and setter room, and the second dedicated entirely to the hatcher room and chick handling.

During these visits, both egg and chick quality were evaluated and a break-out analysis performed, all in a setting that gave participants the opportunity to see and experience advanced Smart™ incubation and hatchery automation systems first-hand in a live production environment.

Sharing ideas and insights, says Barry Vincent, Breeder/Hatchery Specialist at Tyson Foods, adds great depth to the experience: “The training is really comprehensive, it’s amazing what can be covered in just three days.

“Sharing insights with other hatchery professionals from their own experiences has been a really valuable aspect of the whole experience. The training has given me a range of new tools and insights that I can take away to improve analysis, processes and performance as soon as I get back to the hatchery, and I’ve met new friends in the industry too!”

Future training opportunities

NatureForm will be running further hatchery management training courses in 2018. If you would like further information or to pre-register your interest in attending, please email

Miller Poultry contracts NatureForm for new hatchery renovation in Indiana

Miller Poultry, a producer of Amish-grown, antibiotic free poultry, has commissioned a complete renovation of its broiler hatchery in Goshen, Indiana with SmartPro™ NF single stage incubation.

The refurbished hatchery will be equipped with 27 technologically advanced SmartPro™ NF setters, accompanying hatchers and supporting ventilation, for a weekly setting capacity of approximately 1.1 million eggs.

SmartPro™ NF single stage incubation allows for precise, zonal temperature control, which delivers a higher hatch of fertiles and superior chick uniformity. Miller’s entire incubation and hatching process will be integrated with the SmartCenterPro™ hatchery management system, Pas Reform’s most advanced, next generation hatchery information software, to aid in quality control, preventative maintenance and hatch cycle analysis.

Commenting on the new project, Vice President Live Operations Stephen Shepard said: “It is the right time to significantly upgrade our hatchery and go 100 per cent single stage. When we analysed the health, robustness and uniformity of the day-old chicks produced by our current SmartPro™ NF single stage equipment, we were left in no doubt that this was the best route to continue innovating incubation in our company.

“We have been extremely pleased with our relationship with NatureForm, so they were the natural choice to support our plans.”

Miller Poultry, family owned since 1942, specializes in antibiotic free, all vegetable-fed poultry that are raised on small Amish family farms.

Owner Galen Miller adds, “We are one of the original users of NatureForm single stage equipment. It has been great to watch them grow and advance over the years and we are happy to move forward together with them in this new phase of our operations.”

Jack Hubbell, Vice President of Sales for NatureForm comments: “We are excited about the opportunity to grow with Miller Poultry. We have known them for many years and it is really special to be a chosen supplier for such a quality-conscious company.”

Smart and integrated: Quebec’s Couvoir Réal Côté looks to the future

Family-owned Couvoir Réal Côté, a well-known and long-standing business in the Canadian hatchery industry, is to expand operations to 400,000 broilers per week for the Quebec market, with a fully integrated new facility that will be built around a brand new SmartPro™ single-stage hatchery at its Ange-Gardien site.

With 12 SmartSetPro™2 incubators, 12 SmartSetPro™4 incubators and 14 SmartHatchPro™ hatchers, the new installation will also include a total overhaul of the hatchery’s climate control system, with air handling units that use 100% fresh air to eliminate the need for recirculated air and a completely new chilled water system. Hatchery automation will also be replaced, with stackers, de-stackers and a new transfer, candling and clear egg removal unit as part of the project.

New washing machines, a vacuum system and a farm-to-setter trolley stacker/destacker are also included. The complete system will be connected by advanced, web-based SmartCenterPro™ hatchery management software, to deliver realtime analysis and reporting across the entire operation, both from Réal Côté’s office in Ange Gardien, or remotely from support teams at Pas Reform’s Zeddam HQ in The Netherlands or NatureForm in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Production of the day-old broiler chicks will be split over two weekly hatches,” explains Martin Lavoie, hatchery manager, “and with the ability to analyse hatches both on site and remotely, we will work closely with Pas Reform’s technical team to ensure that performance is optimised.”

“After 38 years of operation, it was time to renew the hatchery,” says Réal Côté, founder and president . “We have been providing quality day old chicks to the Quebec market all these years, and we are very happy to continue working with Pas Reform as we look to the future. Our customers want nothing but the highest quality broilers from us.”

The company started incubating broiler eggs 38 years ago and, he says, if it’s up to him they will continue to do so for another 38 years. “With this investment, we not only replace, upgrade and expand our current operation, but we are also building in room for further expansion in the future.”

“When I visited the Réal Côté hatchery for the first time back in 2003, people were surprised to see someone from Pas Reform, a Dutch company, in North America,” comments Bouke Hamminga, Pas Reform’s director of international sales and business development. “Since then, Pas Reform’s international presence has grown significantly and our partnership with NatureForm has emphasised our commitment to this market. We are very happy to have jointly progressed this collaboration with Couvoir Réal Côté – and the best is yet to come!”

A five year SmartCare™ preventive maintenance and hatchery support programme is also part of the new contract, which plans to have the expanded and refitted new hatchery fully operational by the end of 2018.

360° SmartCare™ in the USA: innovation in service and support

There are, says Pas Reform’s CEO Harm Langen, many ways to innovate. And as the world’s only single-source supplier of fully integrated hatchery solutions, Pas Reform and its US partner NatureForm have taken a wide view, to deliver innovation across the full range of products and services.

“SmartCare™ is one such development,” says Harm Langen, “a multi-faceted approach to service and support that that has grown out of our experience of working with more than 1,000 hatcheries worldwide. It delivers across three pillars of planning, project and lifetime services to support each ‘life stage’ of a hatchery project.

“Customers themselves choose from a number of options – there are 21 service categories in all – to create a support package that is fully customised to meet their own, particular needs.”

It’s a new concept that represents a paradigm shift in how service and support are provided in the industry – and one that is rapidly gaining ground for many of Pas Reform and NatureForm’s hatchery customers worldwide.

House of Raeford: leading the way in the USA

In the USA, House of Raeford’s affiliate Columbia Farms was first to adopt SmartCare™, with a Lifetime Services contract to support its state-of-the-art SmartPro™ hatchery in Monetta, South Carolina.
With a skilled and experienced team in place, Columbia designed their own contract to include:

  • Helpdesk support, to maximize support availability and response times
  • SmartCenterPro™ hardware & software support, including the delivery of all new system releases and updates and hardware replacement support, should it be required
  • Recommended spare parts, to ensure that spare parts are always in stock
  • Remote analysis and advice, for periodic reports based on SmartCenterPro™ data, with results and recommendations
  • Periodic inspections, to provide structural equipment inspections
  • Incubation consultancy, for independent, hatchery-wide reviews that include reporting and recommendations from Pas Reform Academy’s hatchery specialists

Complex manager Jim Mabe headed the team that worked with NatureForm and Pas Reform to create Columbia Farms’ SmartCare™ package. He says: “The Monetta facility is a state-of-the-art hatchery and, when we made the decision for SmartPro™ setters, hatchers, HVAC and automation, we signed up to levels of technological advancement that would ensure we deliver the best possible birds for our network of growers.

“High levels of technical support and backup from NatureForm in Jacksonville were a vital ingredient of our ultimate decision – and SmartCare™ brings another level to that for us, with a package that we’ve been able to select according to our own, very specific needs.”

SmartCare™ has, says NatureForm’s president Steve Warren, been developed to deliver an assurance of efficient, uninterrupted performance at every level of hatchery operations. “SmartCare™ is a 360° approach through which we share our knowledge, people, expertise and experience at every stage of planning, building, commissioning and beyond.”

Smart apps and 24/7 support

Columbia’s own staff are well trained and have a great deal of experience, but as Assistant Complex Manager David Rush explains, it was important that they were up to speed with the new system as quickly as possible.

“For that reason, the company’s customised SmartCare™ package includes a fortnightly skype call to discuss any questions, follow up on open points and share knowledge and ideas. The SmartCare™ Helpdesk is available 24/7 to work closely with maintenance staff and the hatchery also uses the Android- and iOS-based SmartService™ App, which makes it very easy to send service requests or questions, with photos if needed.

“To optimise operations, we do a lot of preventive maintenance ourselves and under the SmartCare™ plan that we created, Pas Reform and NatureForm carry out a complete inspection twice a year and we have an agreement on spare parts.” The plan also includes site visits by an incubation consultant from Pas Reform Academy, to focus on optimizing hatchability and quality.

“For us, SmartCare™ Lifetime Service is more than just support in case of a problem,” concludes David Rush. “It is a partnership, where we work together with Pas Reform and NatureForm continuously to generate further improvements, increased hatchability and chick quality.”

Koch Foods chooses SmartPro™ for the 2nd time to develop USA’s largest single stage hatchery

Chicago-based Koch Foods, the USA’s 5th largest poultry integrator, has chosen Pas Reform and NatureForm to completely renovate its Henagar hatchery in Alabama. When completed, Henagar will be the largest fully integrated, single stage broiler hatchery in the Western Hemisphere.

Pas Reform and its US partner, NatureForm Hatchery Technologies, will install 84 SmartSetPro™ setters with a capacity of 132,192 eggs each and 92 SmartHatchPro™ hatchers, each with a capacity of 22,032 hatching eggs, to create a weekly setting capacity of more than 3.7 million eggs.

As a fully integrated project, the contract also includes work to renovate Henagar’s climate control and automation systems. A complete new HVAC system has been designed for the hatchery, with 14 Daikin air handling units that use 100% outside air and air handlers equipped with the latest UV disinfection system. Boilers and chillers will also be replaced, including the addition of modern primary and secondary heat recovery systems, to make the hatchery one of the most energy efficient in North America.

A new hatchery automation system is designed to process 800,000 day old chicks in an eight-hour operating day. To achieve this, the system incorporates three transfer candling lines with individual stacking, destacking and clear egg removal; a double chick take-off line with destackers, separators and innovative, animal-friendly SmartCount™ chick counters.

SmartCenterPro™ hatchery information software will super-connect data from the entire hatchery, from the realtime monitoring and historic recording of Incubator climates, to the monitoring, counting and analysis of embryos and chick uniformity data gathered from hatchery automation processes.

Gary Davis, Vice President Eastern Division at Koch Foods , comments “Before embarking on a company-wide hatchery renovation-expansion programme, we tested Pas Reform’s equipment and technologies extensively in the Henagar facility.

“Once we saw improvements in hatch and feed conversion rates, we worked with the Pas Reform/NatureForm team to evaluate the project’s viability and, based on return on investment calculations, our experience with the renovation of our Crossville facility and the very comprehensive support package that has also been a key success factor for other major hatcheries in the USA , the project was approved.”

Steve Warren, CEO of NatureForm Hatchery Technologies concludes, “This is a milestone for Pas Reform and NatureForm: a truly exceptional opportunity to supply and install a project of this size and calibre, as the world’s only single source supplier of fully integrated hatchery solutions.

Fully integrated solutions do not, says Steve Warren, stop when installation is complete and together, contractor and supplier have customised a SmartCare™ preventative maintenance and hatchery support contract that will proactively involve both company’s teams to maintain optimum hatchery performance.

“In considering the full scope of this project, we recognised that one of the major factors in the success of the work we had undertaken for House of Raeford was the implementation of a SmartCare™ Lifetime Services agreement,” he says, “and Koch’s senior team agreed.”

“This contract is future-focused at every level. It recognises that the time has come for a new, proactive paradigm in hatchery service and support and that with SmartCare™, we’ve got that covered.”

Koch Foods chooses Pas Reform and NatureForm for single-source hatchery expansion

Chicago-based Koch foods, the USA’s fifth largest poultry integrator has chosen to work with Pas Reform and NatureForm, the world’s only single-source supplier of integrated hatchery solutions, to expand their hatchery at Crossville, Alabama. The news comes following an eighteen month trial at the company’s Henagar operation.

With a current weekly processing capacity of 14 million broilers, Koch Foods is starting its extensive renovation project at its Crossville hatchery in Alabama, where adding 48 SmartSetPro™ setters and 48 SmartHatchPro™ hatchers will increase capacity by 2.1 million eggs set per week, to bring total weekly capacity at this hatchery alone up 3.8 million eggs.

Koch Foods is, says NatureForm’s president Steve Warren, fully accessing his company’s single-source capabilities. This include a complete HVAC system for both the new expansion and the egg and chick handling areas as well as chillers, pressure controls and humidification system, for a state-of-the-art climate control system throughout the hatchery.

The installation will also incorporate an entire range of hatchery automation systems, with farm to setter rack transfer systems, auto-candling and transfer, chick separator, animal-friendly chick counters, washers, stackers and de-stackers.

Advanced, web-based SmartCenterPro™ hatchery information software will enable Koch foods to control setter, hatcher, climate control and hatchery automation (transfer, candling and chick counting) operations from a single computer, as well as providing remote access capabilities to manage and respond to system alerts or provide technical and troubleshooting support.

Don Davis, Complex Manager at Koch Foods, comments: “We have worked with NatureForm for many years now and were always of a mind to change over to single-stage incubation. Our goal is to put the absolute best chick possible in the field. So, we started trials with Pas Reform single-stage equipment in our Henagar operation and the results have clearly shown the advantages of the SmartPro™ system. This is the main reason we decided to proceed with Pas Reform and NatureForm.”

Gary Davis, Vice President Eastern Division at Koch Foods, adds: “We were also very impressed by the dedication and expertise of their team during both the trial period and the discussions of the new project. It has become our firm belief that NatureForm and Pas Reform have the best team on the ground in the USA.”

Steve Warren remarks: “We have worked with Gary Davis and his team for many years now and we are extremely proud of earning the confidence and trust of Koch Foods.” Bouke Hamminga, Director international sales and business development at Pas Reform, concludes: “This is a major milestone in Pas Reform’s quest to truly become a world player and the world’s first and only single-source supplier of fully integrated hatchery solutions.

“We are achieving this with robust, high quality technical and equipment solutions, but also with the introduction of a brand new, 360-degree approach to service and support – SmartCare™ – that is leading the way in our industry for delivering exactly the levels of support our customers need.

“We have seen how this matters to our customers – and as hatcheries increase in size and complexity, it will become pivotal to the future of our business. We look forward to building a long-lasting partnership with Koch Foods over the coming years.”

Construction is now underway at Crossville, where the first chicks from the expanded hatchery are expected in June 2018.

Sanofi Pasteur contracts NatureForm for new flu vaccine facility in Pennsylvania

Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest dedicated producer of human vaccines, is to build a state-of-the-art new vaccine production facility with SmartPro™ NF incubation systems at its campus in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania.

With 10 incubators built to exacting pharmaceutical standards, the new facility will have a total incubation capacity of more than 2.5 million eggs and is expected to be operational in 2019.
Sanofi Pasteur produces more than 1 billion doses of vaccine each year and previously expanded its Swiftwater vaccine production capabilities with NatureForm equipment in 2006. Successful project management, validation capabilities and the ability to meet the stringent demands of human vaccine production were key factors in the company’s decision to work with NatureForm Hatchery Technologies again for this new expansion.

SmartPro™ NF incubation allows for precise, zonal temperature control, which delivers more viable embryos and therefore a greater vaccine yield. All incubators will be integrated with Sanofi Pasteur’s internal management software. Security badge scanners for access, specialized cooling coils, custom inlet and exhaust with filtration are just some of the specialized features that will be incorporated to ensure the equipment can be validated in this Biosecurity Level 2+ vaccine production facility.

Steve Warren, President of NatureForm Hatchery Technologies, comments, “We are extremely proud of our participation in this very important project. In 2016, Sanofi Pasteur enabled the vaccination of 200 million people against influenza worldwide and, together with our partner Pas Reform, we are honoured to be entrusted with such a significant component of their global vaccine production program.”





Canada’s Sargent Farms and Boire & Frères team up for ‘Smart’ new broiler hatchery

Canada’s Sargent Farms and Boire & Frères team up for ‘Smart’ new broiler hatchery

Quebec-based Boire & Frères and Sargent Farms from Ontario have joined forces to develop a new, state-of-the-art hatchery project, that will produce around 20 million day old broilers a year with a focus on chick quality, welfare, hygiene, and sustainability.

The pioneering companies have commissioned NatureForm and Pas Reform to develop the new Thames River Hatchery, a green field operation near Woodstock, Ontario, with the most advanced SmartPro™ single stage incubation technologies, as well as a custom-designed HVAC (climate control) system and hatchery automation. Every level of hatchery operations will be super-connected by SmartCenterPro™, a web-based hatchery management software system that delivers unrivalled data-gathering for detailed monitoring, management analysis and reporting in the hatchery.

A fully integrated project, Thames River Hatchery is, say its creators, being developed with a special focus on chick quality and the expectations of today’s consumer. As such, it will incorporate not only animal-friendly SmartCount™ vision-technology enabled chick counters, but also over time the newly launched SmartStart™ post-hatch feeding system developed by a unique three-way partnership in Europe that allows the new hatchlings the earliest access to feed and water while they are still in the hatcher

With 24 SmartSetPro™-4 setters in a single setter bay and 20 SmartHatchPro™ hatchers located in each of three hatch bays, the additional hatchers allow a special focus on hygiene to include a sanitary rest day in the hatching process, for top-class bio security, sanitation and day old chick quality. As a first in the Canadian poultry industry, Thames River’s hatchers will employ the innovative SmartStart™ post-hatch feeding concept, which enables them to work in the traditional way, but also – and without any modification – to supply feed and water for the new hatchlings as soon as they hatch, irrespective of the length of the hatch window. The hatchery’s integrated HVAC (Climate Control) system incorporates three separate, Siemens controlled air-handling units, to optimise biosecurity and deliver individual room temperature, humidity and static pressure control.

SmartCenterPro™’s track and trace module will record every movement of the hatching eggs and day old chicks, from the origin of the eggs, to the receipt of chicks at customers’ farms, with cycle reports from every hatch that includes an individual day old chick weight estimation and uniformity scoring for each batch produced.

Founded in 2016, the new joint venture company will cater to Ontario’s day old broiler market. Claude Boire, from Boire & Frères, remarks, “We can see the importance of chick quality and sustainability to market growth, features that have strongly influenced our decisions regarding the use of SmartPro™ technologies and in particular the adoption of SmartStart™ for post-hatch feeding.

Bob Sargent, from Sargent Farms, adds: “We want to utilize the latest in technology, which is why we also chose the SmartCount™ counting concept and SmartCenterPro™ data integration for this new project. The animal friendly counter counts birds in groups and manages their passage gently, without the acceleration of the day old chicks that you see with traditional counters – and SmartCenterPro™ gives us the track and trace information demanded by many of our final customers and increasingly by Canadian consumers.”

NatureForm’s president Steve Warren concludes: “We are very excited about the Thames River Hatchery project. It is a complete and integrated development, with incubation, climate control and animal friendly hatchery automation – all from a single supplier.

“NatureForm and Pas Reform have worked together to become a single-source supplier of completely integrated hatchery projects for over four years now – and this new hatchery is the latest, exciting development in a growing list of completely integrated projects that we have delivered worldwide.”

Thames River Hatchery is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2017.

Lean logic: driving a new era of operations

Lean logic: driving a new era of operations

In September 2015, Angela Fauls joined the NatureForm team as Manufacturing Operations Manager, with a focus on driving the further development of the Company’s operations performance by using Lean Logic Strategies to increase manufacturing efficiencies, project planning and cost price reduction.

With more than 12 years’ experience in the Manufacturing Operations Management field and a BSB in Integrated Supply Chain Operations Management, Angela’s guidance and mentoring of the Operations team has led to the successful implementation of a new direction in continuous process improvement. With a vast knowledge of supply chain management in the manufacturing environment and proven leadership skills, NatureForm is, says president Steve Warren, really benefiting from lean logic thinking through Angela’s decision making, analytical and strategic planning skills.

“In the past year, Angela has trained and led her team to a new ‘lean methodology’ culture through vendor outsourcing, the cost price reduction of purchased parts, Kaizen projects, 5S workplace organization events and project I”

“It’s transformational – and it’s making a lasting difference to the way NatureForm works both internally and with our customers.”

Angela loves her role and greatly enjoys working with her team. She says: “I am truly happy and excited to be a part of the NatureForm/Pas Reform family – and look forward to many successful years of growth, as we manufacture the highest levels of integrated hatchery solutions on the market.”

Willmar AG Forte launches world’s first SmartCount™ turkey counter

World’s first SmartCount™ turkey counter

Willmar Poultry Company / AG Forte has successfully developed an innovative new concept for its turkey take-off and processing line, with the installation of the world’s first SmartCount™ turkey counter in collaboration with Pas Reform and NatureForm at its Willmar hatching facilities in Minnesota.

The animal-friendly counter, which has been in operation in the broiler industry for over five years, has been adapted in a joint process that for the first time enables the counting and analysing of day old turkey poults. SmartCount™ analyzes the quality of the poults in terms of individual weight estimation and uniformity distribution, with a calculation of the coefficient of variance as an indication of flock quality and uniformity.

Willmar / AG Forte embarked on this joint development project with Pas Reform over a year ago, to deliver an innovative poult counter in Willmar’s operations. The company was looking for an animal-friendly, high capacity counter that could handle 60,000 day old poults per hour, to an accuracy of +/- 5 per 1000 – and seeing SmartCount™ operating in broiler facilities sparked the idea for the joint development.

SmartCount™ turkey does not need to individualize day old poults. As the first counter that uses vision technology to count groups of poults, it analyses the circumferences of individuals, estimate their weights and produces a uniformity curve for poults counted based on the images collected by the camera.

Neil Miller, head of operations at Willmar / AG Forte comments “We have been looking at how to further improve animal welfare during the process of take-off, counting, sexing and vaccination.

“When we saw the Pas Reform counter, we immediately saw the potential of this piece of equipment to improve animal welfare standards in our hatchery. We have been running the counter now for the last couple of weeks – and have been very impressed with how gentle it is on our poults and with the counters accuracy.”

Robert Bowen, sales manager for Natureform in the United States adds: “Working with Willmar Poultry / AG Forte on this project has enabled successful adaptation and product innovation to develop our automation lines into a new area of operation. There is great potential to expand on this within the turkey and potentially other hatchery operations, not only in the USA, but worldwide.”