One2Born: Alternative to brooding hens
Winner of Herman Wijffels Innovation Award sees excellent market opportunities
As an alternative to traditional incubators that is not only more economical and sustainable but also significantly more animal-friendly, it’s no surprise the One2Born concept earned the Herman Wijffels Innovation Award in the Food & Agriculture category. We spoke to one of the two creators of this innovative new product on the eve of its market launch. "People tend to think in terms of high-tech solutions, but they often forget to draw on the natural world around them."
The approximately 350 million broilers born in the Netherlands annually start out their lives in less-than-ideal conditions. They are born in an incubator, where the first chicks have to wait for several days until all the other eggs have hatched. They are then transported to customers in lorries. This means they spend the first days of their lives in a dark space with uncomfortably high temperatures, usually without food or water. One2Born founder Frank de Louw, who worked for some time as a hatchery manager: "It’s a very stressful experience for them. You also need a lot of antibiotics to keep infections at bay in this hot and stuffy environment."
"We simulate conventional brooding conditions – minus the actual hen"
De Louw felt there had to be a better way to do this. One day he woke up with the idea for One2Born: a product that is set to radically improve the lives of broilers in the future. His invention is an egg container in which each egg is surrounded by ventilation tubes, while tiny openings beneath the eggs help to create constant, uniform air distribution. The eggs are transported from the hatchery to the barn in these stacked containers. Once they’ve arrived there, the chicks get to decide themselves when they hatch. This means they are already in their habitat the moment they are born, with immediate access to fresh feed and water. De Louw, explaining the premise: "The method we devised adheres as closely to the natural order of things as possible. We simulate conventional brooding conditions – minus the actual hen. People like to think in terms of complex high-tech solutions, but we often forget to draw on the natural world around us."
De Louw decided to get in touch with his former colleague Huub van Santvoort. The two had previously worked together in the poultry industry and he knew Huub was playing around with a similar idea. "We decided to team up and investigate whether we could apply for a patent for our idea in order to protect the intellectual property rights. We then looked for additional partners to handle production and other areas. When it came to designing the container, we started out by trying different shapes and sizes. We ended up deciding on a sustainable container made from recycled paper." One2Born has already completed its trial stage, with the first one million eggs having hatched. De Louw: "That first run was a clear success – the product does exactly what we promised it would.’
Clear and concise concept
The One2Born owners first heard about the Herman Wijffels Innovation Award in mid-2015, when they were still in the development stage. "It turned out we met the entry criteria, and we recognised the massive potential of the award. But before we filled out the application forms we checked whether we would be able to launch our product in the market before the date of the award ceremony. We wanted to make sure that, if we did end up winning, we’d have an actual product we could show people."
De Louw has no regrets about submitting his idea for the Herman Wijffels Innovation Award: "As part of the application process we had to answer a number of questions about our idea. This forced us to explain the concept in clear and concise terms and that turned out to be a good basis for our business plan. When we learned we’d been nominated, we knew we really had to get our act together quickly and make progress by for instance contacting potential suppliers. We needed to get past the conceptual stage and start getting down to business. To our delight, we actually ended up winning the award! It’s a real honour to get that kind of validation for our idea. What’s more, as a fledgling company representing a product that isn’t available in the market yet, the vote of confidence our product has received from Rabobank is very helpful to reassure our partners."
"As well as being more animal-friendly, our product is also more sustainable and more profitable for the supply chain as a whole"
More sustainable and more economical
The production moulds have now been delivered and the One2Born owners are ready to roll out their product in the market. De Louw feels the market opportunities for the product are excellent: "86 billion broilers are hatched annually worldwide. Our job is to get the market get used to our product, which is not only more animal-friendly but also more sustainable and more profitable across the entire supply chain. We intend to start out by launching our product in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Britain and Denmark. Our target is to achieve a 10-percent market share in Western Europe within the next two or three years."