Evonik takes stake in smarter chicken farming start-up

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/izzetugutmen
© GettyImages/izzetugutmen
Evonik, through its venture capital unit, has invested in a UK precision livestock start-up aimed at improving poultry production.

The German group said it now holds a minority stake in OPTIfarm Ltd, a company headquartered in Chesterfield in the UK. The parties did not disclose the financial details of the deal.

Evonik said the start-up advances digitalization in chicken farming. By supporting customers in improving performance and sustainability, the German company said it is strengthening its animal nutrition division. 

UK broiler farmer, David Speller, developed the OPTIfarm concept. It is aimed at delivering round the clock remote monitoring of poultry houses, ensuring better animal welfare, improving livestock performance and enabling fail-safe operations.

According to the company website, OPTIfarm is about optimizing the farm facility by helping the farmer achieve his goals, while simultaneously observing welfare indicators using whatever platforms, sensors and imagery available.

“We can use mobile phone pictures, videos, telephone calls, in barn sensors, technology like Eyenamics, vet reports, factory kill information, parent flock data, voice calls to the farmer, etc.

“OPTIfarm has been able to clearly demonstrate to its clients a tremendous return by having a constant 24/7 service that is continually helping make changes when needed any time day or night. We work with any farm controls system, Skov, Choretime, Fancom, Dutchman, Steinen, even homemade platforms.

“We can customize our work easily as we use humans and software combined to collate the information required by our clients. This enables our team to focus not only on broad whole farm appraisal but also on specific areas requiring improvement, such as mortality, food conversion, uniformity, gait scores, disease, lighting regimes, feeding regimes, staff training, etc.”

Gender determination of chicken embryos 

Evonik’s investment in the precision livestock firm follows the announcement last month that it had also invested in a Dutch biotechnology start-up​, In Ovo, a company focused on quick and reliable gender determination of chicken embryos in the egg to ensure the poultry farming industry can avoid the killing of male chicks.

Currently holding investments in more than 20 start-ups and venture capital funds related to agriculture and nutrition, Evonik said that it is planning to invest €100m in innovative technologies and in specialized funds as part of its VC activities, with a focus on its health & care, smart materials, animal nutrition, and specialty additives divisions as well as on digitalization.

"The collaboration with VC funds and innovative start-ups complements our open innovation strategy and creates excellent opportunities for accelerating the development of new businesses and opening up new growth fields,"​ a spokesperson for Evonik told us previously.

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