What crosses your mind when you go to buy chicken or table eggs other than those mouth-watering dishes? Most probably how fresh the meat is or how good the quality of the eggs is. What if we told you that there is an Indian company which is spending crores in order to infuse technology which makes sure that you get the best quality protein?
As skeptical or bizarre the idea might sound, Bengaluru-headquartered Nandu’s Chicken, a subsidiary of Nanda Feeds Ltd, is using analytics, Internet of Things and blockchain alongside tech-driven equipment to make sure that the quality of chicken meat right from the egg stage is perfect for consumption.
“There are enough examples of usage of technology in agriculture so that farmers can increase yield. China has seen its own share of artificial intelligence (AI) in pig farms. So, a couple of years back we decided to start using technology in poultry so that we can serve the best product to the market,” Narendra K Pasuparthy, the chief executive of Nandu’s Chicken, told TechCircle.
Good old ERP and monitoring the flock
In fact, Pasuparthy is not wrong at all. There are examples of some chicken firms using drones in combination with machine learning to monitor the flock or coup’s living conditions.
However, Pasuparthy still believes in personally visiting a flock but he is using a good old enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution in combination with tablets or new-age phones to make it smart.
ERP is a business process management software that allows an organisation to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology and services almost in real time.
Nandu’s Chicken, which has close to 15 breeding farms each with 10,000 to 15,000 birds mostly in remote locations, sends a supervisor every morning to inspect the flock. “The supervisor arrives with a smart device and then he starts inspecting the flock. He is needed to fill in details such as how healthy the flock looks, are the birds eating the right amount or drinking the right amount of water, are they laying eggs and what size are the eggs, etc. into an application that is present on the tablet,” Pasuparthy explained.
This data, he said, is sent back to the firm’s central repository and is checked by a veterinarian and a team who keeps tab of the produce to ensure that the company is meeting the market demand with the best quality.
“If there is any anomaly in the data or any degrading health conditions, we dispatch a vet to look into the matter,” he said, adding that the company has eight doctors monitoring the 15 farms.
In fact, Pasuparthy said that the vets are also looking into different aspects of the data while keeping in mind external factors such as the season and weather conditions.
The ERP solution that Nandu’s Chicken uses is developed by Indonesia-based software services and solutions company ExcelSoft Technologies.
Feed mills – the food for the birds
While conditions at the farm determine the quality of meat and eggs, another important component, as per Pasuparthy, is the bird’s diet. And he wants to commit no mistake there.
“This is why we have partnered with one of the largest Chinese feed milling companies named Muyang. Their machinery, which works on pre-programmed software, can complete the batching process automatically without any human intervention,” Pasuparthy said.
Explaining further, he said that the machine is told what is the right mix of ingredients for the birds and it automatically mixes them and puts them out for deployment making sure the birds get the right amount of nutrition for growth.
Hatcheries, incubators and slaughterhouses
Once the flock has laid eggs, Pasuparthy said that they are then moved to hatcheries where they are sorted and then moved into incubators. But this entire process is automated.
“We use a piece of special equipment that runs on a simple weight algorithm to sort and grade the eggs and then they are moved for 21 days into incubators,” the CEO, who himself is an IT engineer, said.
The incubators themselves, which are built by US-based company Nature Form, are IoT-enabled and monitors metrics such as humidity, temperature, air movement and how many times the eggs have been turned during the incubation period.
“All this data is pushed to our central server where it is continuously being monitored, and if any of these metrics crosses the optimum mark in any way, there is a control mechanism in place. The system also sends out an alert to the staff,” Pasuparthy said.
Once the chickens hatch and grow up to a certain body weight (around 2 kgs), they are moved to slaughterhouses which also runs on automated machinery.
The machine runs on a pre-programmed software module that automatically weighs the meat and also continuously monitors the temperature of the water in which the meat is cleaned.
“If the meat is not of right weight, an alert or report is sent to our ERP solution. Also, the temperature of the water is important because if it is soaked for too long, then it will start cooking in there itself,” Pasuparthy explained.
Binding analytics and blockchain together
While each software and hardware module collects various kinds of data at different divisions of the company or monitors key metrics at those stages in a collated form, this data, according to the CEO, is what gives the company an edge.
“When you combine all the data and compare them, then we can get business insights such as what is the hatchability of the flock, are the chickens all coming out in perfect weight, what went wrong in what stage that resulted in poor or quality degradation, etc.,” Pasuparthy explained, adding that these data points help in future planning of the flock.
In addition to running analytics on data internally to get business insights, the company also runs analytics on the market trying to determine the right price of meat. “We have created statistical models that help us understand the market better,” he said, adding that data from PoS terminals in its 22 outlets also shows the market demand at a certain point in time.
The company is also planning to put most of its trade on blockchain and has been running some experiments. Pasuparthy said that the deployment will happen in the near future.
Investment, return and revenue
According to Pasuparthy, the company has been investing in technology slowly over a period of eight years, and till date, it has approximately invested around Rs 20 crore in total.
The CEO is quite positive about the return on investment. “We have seen a change in market demand. Our use of technology makes us one of the sought after producers in the south,” he said.
He is also upbeat about the India market which consumes a lot of meat and eggs. According to a report by ratings agency ICRA on the Indian poultry industry last year, broiler and table egg occupy almost over 90% of the pie. The total broiler market size was estimated at 4.2 million tonnes (carcass weight), translating into volume growth of 7% year-on-year during the calendar year 2017.
The rating agency also estimated that per capita meat consumption is around 3.6 kg per annum, which puts the total broiler meat market size at Rs 73 crore in terms of retail price.
The CEO also claims that his company is growing at a decent pace of 25% month-on-month but still contributes to “low double-digit figures” to the total Nanda Group revenue.
According to VCCircle’s data research platform VCCEdge, Nanda Feeds Ltd reported a total revenue of Rs 129.25 crore in the financial year ended March 2018 compared to Rs 117.13 crore for the previous year.