On-the-spot observations of chicken production facilities | Sunday Observer

On-the-spot observations of chicken production facilities

The day was bright with a clear blue sky when we set out on a day early this month to our first destination - Crysbro’s feed mill plant at Weerabugedara in Kurunegala – for an on-the-spot observation and acquaintance with the different production activities of chicken specialist Crysbro. The journey along the rural and jungle terrain was slow but pleasant. Crysbro arranged a media tour to provide first-hand information about their modern chicken producing methods, adhering to international quality and hygienic standards.

Crysbro operates 17 business/production locations centralized through six core companies out of which four locations were visited by the media team, the first being the feed mill plant (Fortune Agro Industries) at Weerabugedara the latest and the most modern feed mill in Sri Lanka, according to Crysbro owners.

The feed mill plant at Weerabugedara is a 13-storey structure in a mountainous terrain, 20 km away from Kurunegala town and far from urban settlements and residential areas, where the little bad smell or the very minute environmental impacts do not reach humans.

Incidentally, all four installations/plants that we visited are in isolated locations far from human settlements and townships.

Entering a tunnel-like structure on the ground floor, with all security and safety precautions and witnessing operations in all floors en-route power tools and state-of-the-art machinery, long-stretching pipe-lines, conveyor belts and forklifts in operation, computer rooms, staff and manual workers, we were taken on a lift to the 13th floor. From here, we could see all installations on the ground, including the power installations, stations for weighing and unloading of maize and other raw materials for the manufacture of chicken feed, storage facilities and the breathtaking view of the fields, the surrounding villages, paddy-fields and the forest hills.

Fortune Agro Industries’ feed mill complex was constructed in 2015 with an investment of Rs.1.5 billion and with an operational investment of Rs.3.5 billion, Factory Engineer Lalith Bandara told the Business Observer. Farmers who bring the maize to the plant are paid instantly - the due amount gets deposited to their bank accounts even before they exit the factory complex, Bandara said.

The maize, soybean meal, wheat brand, rice polish and certain vitamins are the raw materials for producing the chicken feed. Soybean meal is imported while maize when in extreme short supply is also imported under a special permit system of the Imports and Exports Control Department, he said. “All operations from the time of unloading of the raw materials to the time of the finished feed product are handled by machines and manual handling is required only for moving/fork lifting the packaged feed which comes in 11 varieties, according to the age and size of the birds.”

This plant has a production capacity of 400 mt per day - but due to the shortfall of maize it produces only about 300 to 350 mt a day. The company sells its products to other chicken farming companies. Farmers from the North Western and North Central provinces bring their maize to the plant while the company has its own maize farms in Dehiattakandiya, Giandurukotte and Kantale in the Eastern province. They also buy from local farmers in the Eastern province.

We noticed that the company maintains stringent health and quality standards; the entire staff bathes before entering the factory. To prevent air pollution in the environment, the air is released after filtering, according to Bandara.

Cleaning of the raw materials, especially the maize is done mechanically and so is raising or lowering their temperatures. To get over the problem of disposing of the chicken litter, they heat and compress it to make ‘brickets’ to be used as firewood, following an Indian model. Disposal of intestines and other internal parts is also not a problem. They heat theses at very high temperature levels to make powder, which, in turn, is used as a feed ingredient. They have the facility to store 6,000 mt of raw materials, Bandara said.

Our next visit was to the Wayamba Development Pvt. Ltd also known as the ‘Galgamuwa Closed House Broiler Farm’ which is located in an interior jungle setting about 60 km from Kurunegala en-route to Wariyapola. The vicinity of the broiler farm at Wikadenigama is 20 km away from Galgamuwa. The six long cages extend to about 500 feet each and house hundreds of thousands of chicks and their hum is ecstatic to any new visitor. There were one week old chicks at the time of our visit, the harvest of grown-up chicks already having been completed. They are all fed automatically, the feed, water and vitamins travelling in long hoses and dropping according to the requirement of the chicks. They grow to 2.1 kg in just 36 days. The farm’s Senior Manager Lalith Wickramasinghe said that the space required for each chick was about 6 sq.ft.

Each of the six cages have 50,000 chicks which grow to 2.1 kg in 36 days to be transported to the processing and packing plant in Ethgala in Gampola. The closed house farm breeds approximately 35%-40% of chicken, operated under fully automated temperature levels, light and air systems as well as feeding and water systems. “With the current technological facilities and available space we supply 500 mt of chicken to our processing farms on a monthly basis, which will only continue to grow in the future,” Wickramasinghe added. The farm site has an additional 10 acre fertile land in which they grow coconut palms, lime, orange and other fruit varieties and the farm was awarded the ‘Haritha Sathkara Green Award 2017’ for its environmental friendly activities, Wickramasinghe said.

Herds of elephants come to the area where the farm is located, once or twice in a year, stay there for periods extending one to two weeks and do not usually cause any damage to the farm’s properties, Wickramasinghe said.

Our next visit the following day morning was to Midland Breeders up in the hills about 15 km off Nawalapitiya which is the main breeding place for hatchlings to Crysbro and the open market. It is located in a secluded place with tight security and the team of journalists entering the vast hatchery complex had to go through the bio-security measures such as spraying of disinfectants, a hot water shower and change into clean clothing, wearing the face mask and once gain washing your feet in disinfectants.

Midland Breeders is the main breeding base responsible of providing hatchlings to both Crysbro and the public market. Head of its Business Unit, Prasanna Sampath Vithanarachchi said that hatchlings bred within Midland Farms attain the best quality standards due to the international hygienic methods practiced throughout the breeding process under the supervision of highly qualified personnel.

Its boiler production farms and processing plants are equipped with the latest evolving technologies which are on par with international standards. Each day they bring 45,000 eggs from their sister-farm in Dolosbage, about 15 km from Nawalapitiya town. Hatching of a bird takes 21 days, Vithanarachchi said. Their weekly production of chicks is 300,000 and every month they produce 1.2 million chicks which are sent out to their other breeding farms, he said.

Our final destination on the Crysbro exploration tour was their Processing and Packaging Factory off Ethgala near Gampola where the final product is processed, packaged, categorized and transported to the open market. This plant also is on a mountainous terrain overlooking the Mahaweli River deep down in the valley. Here too the media team had to take security precautions wearing gumboots, lab coats, face masks and head cap and finally washing hands in disinfectants.

The enormity of the number of birds rotating overhead in shackles, dropping at quick intervals at ‘drop stations’, the seriousness of the employees (who are clad in uniforms, face masks and gumboots with no time to chat or smile) who pick and pass them on for the mechanical procession – chopping, slicing - blood mixed with water running in small drains in some places and the odour is not pleasant to a stranger. But the work goes on relentlessly and the finished products come out packaged for being sent to the open market.

Part of the employees and the management staff had gathered at tea in their large canteen and all looked cheerful although tired.

The water discharged from the plant gets collected in large pond-like structure outside the plant and it is treated and purified before being released to the Mahaweli River. For a day, they release about 400 cubic metres of water to the river after treatment, said Business Unit Head W.D.M.K.Dissanayake who took us around.

Group HR & Administrative Manager Ranjana Mahindasiri told the media team that the total number of employees there is 1,100, which include 100 persons on the management board and 90 percent of them are on the permanent cadre. All employees from day one become members of the Crysbro’s Welfare Association, which encompasses vast welfare measures, including medical insurance, loan facilities, educational assistance for children and death benefits, Mahindasiri said. 

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