Agribusiness – 5 year Report Card

The year 2017, is basically gone. It has been a 5 year journey in agriculture starting with our first bath of day-old layer chicks on January 3, 2013. Having walked this journey half a decade, this is a chance to look back on the road passed see what lies head

Wins

  1. Paid off capital investment debt, so now all operations are self funded
  2. Layer production processes strengthened with current flock beating all metrics: time to lay –  17.5 weeks (1 week early), productivity (87%)
  3. Strengthened logistics support system which is the foundation of our business model – feed production is a completly outsourced service
  4. Supported the development of a Poultry Farm Calculator developed by Styx Technology Group

Learnings

  1. Management processes are key to production all the way from human resource management, records keeping,
  2. Revenue projections on paper never reflect on the ground reality
  3. Data is king – we collect, analyse and review operations data on a regular basis, to drive decision making. We have had instances where our thoughts are in one direction, but the data tells a different story. Numbers never lie
  4. Information is power – over time we have learnt to read detailed documentation, experiences from around the world, and scientific papers to get grounding in the business we are in
  5. Make business model decisions and stay firm until they are validated – unlike traditional knowledge and advice, we made a strategic to outsource feed mixing as we were ill equipped, did not have the knowledge, and time but invested time in building a strong relationship with our feed supplier. This paid off as we can focus on core skills – production process improvements and increasing sales revenue
  6. Capital investment has to be strategic – the dream of many poultry farmers is to have high levels of automation such cages, automated drinkers which reduce human intervention, but require 100% more capital.
  7. Human resource management – this is a make or break area within any enterprise. We use semi-skilled labor, leveraging modern HR management practices for performance management, loyalty building to retain staff.
  8. Process, process, process – this is the foundation of decision making, and we keep the decisions to a minimum and explain why. Once this is well understood we have only had to tweak and never change a process.

Failures/Shortcomings

  1. Expansion into fish farming which as expected was a huge learning curve with inadequate local knowledge, so have to grow own knowledge
  2. Building a double storied structure – this was a consequence of having limited space with no options for expansion, however the capital would have been best invested in expansion elsewhere.

Look Ahead

  1. Formalize the paper based processed into clear documentation to help other farmers grow and develop
  2. Leverage partnership with Styx Technology Group to develop an end-to-end Poultry Management System for layers with analytics and business-level metrics
  3. Expand the farm operations to 10k birds which will provide economies of scale that drive profitability
  4. Expand into local indeginous chicken breeds with a different business model that suits them
  5. Vertical integration of dairy, lusuku and indeginous poultry on a single operation location

 

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January 2017 – Recirculating Aquaculture Setup Progress Report 

We have been working on setting up a recirculating aquaculture system to support tilapia farming, and currently we have been able to get a greenhouse like effect using a mix of wood panels with plastic pipes to get the warm environments. Next is to get pumps circulating the water and the filtration – both solid and bio-filters running before bringing the next batch of fry probably in March 2017.


Mulching lusuku 

Some of the key challenges for a lusuku are weed manageent, maintaining the fertility of the soils plus dealing with droughts especially with the unpredictable rains currently being experienced around the country.

Mulching provides a natural and organic measure of combatting all the challenges above but with its own constraint of finding suitable plant material in appreciable quantities to provide an adequate layer. Our drive to focus on staying away from chemical fertilizers and herbicides/pesticides is a further driver for our push to mulching.

What we have done:

  1. Provided 3 feet separation from the banana stools to the mulch
  2. Addition of ash (from regular charcoal based cooking) in the space without mulch to control nematodes and other pests
  3. Cutting off the dried out leaves to provide additional plant material for the mulch

Just before the next rains in March 2017, we shall look to add cattle and goat dung for manure.

Spacing for mulch around stool

Spacing for mulch around stool

Mulch view 1

Mulch view 1

Mulch view 2

Mulch view 2

Mulch view 3

Mulch view 3

Mulch view 4

Mulch view 4

Setting up Recirculating Aquaculture System for Concrete Tanks 

As part of the expansion of the fish operations, the next phase is to improve the amount of control over the conditions within the ponds. Currently the water is only changed once in 3-4 days depending on the weather conditions.

The plan is:

  1. Setup RAS circulation with solid settlement and bio-filters (Ultra-violet light based)
  2. Setup a solar system to power the pumps moving the water
  3. Add a covering over the tanks to produce a “green-house” like effect to maintain the water temperatures in ranges that are ideal for tilapia

Settlement and bio-filter tanks

Top view of RAS

9 month Poultry Report Card

A exciting day, our new batch of Isa Brown layers from Asiima Agri-Consult Limited makes 36 weeks and 2 days, finally hits 90% productivity. The productivity journey has been as follows:

  • First egg – 19 weeks
  • 85% to 87% for 10 weeks straight from week 27 to 36

Our secret so far is building on prior experience:

  1. Feed quality – this is outsourced to a supplier whose quality and reliability have been consistent over r the last 3 years
  2. Formula – we r using a basic formula to leave room for improvement as the birds grow older
  3. Biosecurity – use lime at the entrance, also adding a little to the litter, routine spraying outside the houses on a weekly basis. Nobody is allowed into the site – not guests
  4. Vigilant management – the operations manager spends an equivalent of 3 days at the site every week with random visits to support farm management
  5. Fanatical record keeping – diligent record keeping to track trends, and spot patterns in behavior
  6. Fortnightly assessment by a vet as an preventive management pattern

At the same time we are preparing for a new batch of chicks, so repairs to an existing house are underway by plastering the walls exposed to the birds, repairing the floor and replacement of chicken wire mesh.

Once the repairs are completed, a contractor has been hired to disinfect the house which will be the subject of another sharing session

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