Automation firm hatches plan to boost poultry production
Poultry producers have been using incubators to hatch eggs for more than a century, in a method that dates to the early Egyptians. A modern incubator is a device that aims to not just simulate but to exceed the results of natural avian incubation. It creates the perfect environment and conditions for an egg to incubate because it is able to allow all factors, both internal and external to the incubator, to be monitored and work together to achieve high quality and hatchability.
Now, a Sydney-based engineering company has taken this process a giant leap further with the development of a groundbreaking new control system.
Automated Control Solutions (ACS) is a company that specialises in automation and control for the manufacturing and food and beverage industries. Established in Western Sydney over nine years ago, ACS has turned its focus to the food industry to assist poultry producers to increase their productivity.
“Our company has been doing research and development into incubator control systems for the poultry industry for many years,” said ACS founder and CEO Adam Francica. “We have been trialling our latest system at the plant of a leading poultry producer on the outskirts of Sydney.
“The results have not only shown an increase in number and quality of hatchings, but also a huge increase in efficiency.
“After using the new technology, the producer has seen an increase of 3–5% in hatch results and a reduction in energy costs of more than 30%, which easily provides a quick return on investment.”
The main goal is to increase the productivity of poultry producers by increasing their efficiency and producing large numbers of uniform, robust day-old chicks.
“We have been studying the hatching process over several years and have been working with hatchery managers to develop, trial and prove a new control system that achieves better hatch results than current systems available on the market,” added Francica. “And the system must be flexible to suit all conditions, both internal to the incubator and the external environment.”
ACS developed the first prototype of the control system three years ago and has been continuously developing and improving with the latest system in trial for the past six months. The system is still in the developmental stages, but the early signs are most promising.
The success of the system can be largely attributed to the reliability and accuracy of its components. Nearly all the hardware was supplied by Omron, a global manufacturer of automation technology and specialising in control systems. Omron supplied the control hardware: the PLC, touch-screen HMI and various control components.
“We have had a longstanding relationship with Omron,” said Francica. “Our company is an authorised Omron systems integrator.
“Omron is a reputable company — they always provide good support and they are local. We have a strong relationship with them.”
Omron helped to implement the new system and is providing ongoing support.
ACS aims to expand the control system into the poultry industry both nationally and then globally, as companies overseas have already expressed interest in the system.
“There is one key point of difference [compared with existing systems]: customisation of the system provides more control and flexibility,” said Francica.
“Our system can be custom-designed to individual applications and our unique knowledge gained from research and consultation with industry leaders has enabled the development of a control system that is versatile and more flexible than other systems. We can locally support our control system due to in-house design and development, and this gives us a great advantage in the marketplace.”
The control system uses the latest in valve technology to enable optimum temperature control and efficiency, while the PLC incorporates custom algorithms with an easy-to-use touch screen for operators.
“With the new system, we have been able to control the environment far more efficiently,” said Francica.
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