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Poultry firm hatches plan to make hens happier

A manufacturer of poultry farm equipment designed to boost bird welfare will launch the UK’s first commercial poultry farm that is open to the public, with support from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Vencomatic Group is behind The Northern Poultry Campus. It will include a café and a gift shop for visitors and aims to increase transparency around egg production by showing consumers exactly where their eggs come from, and how birds are treated.

The Campus, which will open in 2020, will also provide a pipeline of skilled workers into the industry by providing a venue and learning facilities for local agriculture colleges.

It will be located at Sally Farms, a new 600-acre poultry farm that opened in October in Helperby, where birds are housed in an innovative new kind of nest. The unit will house up to 64,000 birds, with 80 acres of outdoor space for livestock to roam freely.

The nests were specifically designed for the UK market with support from the University of Bristol, and Vencomatic hopes they will be widely adopted by commercial egg producers across the UK.

Dr Leon Furlong, managing director at Vencomatic Group, said: “The nesting systems that will be used at The Northern Poultry Campus are designed to keep birds in good condition and minimise the risk of injury and disease. Making this facility accessible to the next generation of poultry farmers will help to grow and safeguard understanding of animal wellbeing in the sector for the future.”

Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s York-based agriculture team provided Vencomatic with an £8.1million finance package to purchase the land and develop the commercial and public-access units.

Thirsk-based Vencomatic Poultry UK is the UK dealership of Vencomatic Group – a Dutch company which supplies its poultry equipment to farms all over the world. Turnover of the UK business has grown from £1.8million in 2011 to more than £10million today.

Free-range egg specialist Wot-A-Hen agreed to a 20-year lease to manage the unit at Sally Farms, which will supply eggs to Noble Foods to be sold under the Happy Egg brand.

Dr Furlong added: “We want to provide transparency in the industry, at a time when consumers are very conscious about where their food comes from.

“We were incredibly pleased by the reception that Sally Farms had at its open day this year, which was attended by representatives from the RSPCA, animal welfare campaigners and National Farmers Union members.

“Lloyds Bank’s agriculture team has been an important partner in helping us bring forward this facility, which has global significance in poultry farming. Its launch has generated interest from poultry farmers in Africa, New Zealand and the USA, with some looking to fly over to North Yorkshire to take a look for themselves.”

Ian Smellie, agriculture relationship director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The egg production sector has long been on a journey to move away from keeping livestock in batteries to maximise yields. Now, far more recognition is rightly placed on the welfare of birds, and Vencomatic’s systems are leading the way in facilitating this.

“We’re committed to helping Britain prosper by supporting business like Vencomatic, which are working to deliver positive change within their industry, as well as providing the means to boost skills.”


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