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22.09.05
Farmer Invests In Text Messaging For Free Range Eggs

A farmer in Cornwall is planning to install state-of-the-art technology that will alert him via text messages to the status of his free range hens. Len Olds has owned and run Cornhill Farm, at Kehelland, since leaving college. He now plans to use Objective One investment to turn his free range egg production facility into an exemplar farm that will be a model of best practice for other farmers.

The Cornhill Free Range Development Project will cost about £90,000 and of that £17,500 has been approved from the Objective One European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF). The money will be used to expand the business by adding two new chicken houses; installing a cool store and a packhouse to keep the eggs at an even temperature; installing a Mill and Mix unit so the Olds can feed their own home grown wheat to the chickens, installing the computer, web cams and mobile phone text technology and later installing an incinerator so chickens can be disposed of hygienically.

One extra full time employee and a part time egg collector will also be taken on to help run the unit and to provide relief for the Olds. It is estimated the expansion will lead to about £200,000 worth of extra sales annually.

Mr Olds, who currently runs Cornhill with his son Peter, already has a contract with Stonegate to supply 96 per cent of his eggs to Waitrose. He said: "Free range eggs are taking an increased share of the egg market, with consumers being more aware of where and how their food is produced. In addition EU ruling is set to ban cage eggs in 2012, as the majority of eggs are produced this way, their banning will open the market for free range egg producers to expand and help satisfy demand. We are finding it hard to supply the local demand and stay within our Waitrose contract, so the extra production would help us to relieve this situation. The demands of consumers are ever growing and it is essential that the free range market keeps innovating to improve animal welfare and product standards. My expansion plan will tap into a niche market that is expanding at a controlled rate, where I have already proven my ability to perform. It will reduce miles travelled by product, and be set up in an environmentally friendly way - the farm is a member of FWAG, LEAF and Freedom Foods."

David Rodda, Cornwall Agricultural Council spokesman, said: "This project is an example of an enterprising farmer embracing technology into his business to reduce production costs. It has been supported as a strategic on-farm investment in order to demonstrate the application of new and innovative equipment to other egg and poultry producers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Cornhill Free Range Project delivers a combination of the strategic goals of the Cornwall Agricultural Council and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the investments made."

Mr Olds explained what the additional facilities would do. He said: "The extra hen houses will ease farm management, improve the hens' environment and put us at the forefront of the free range egg industry. Feeding our own home grown wheat will mean adding value and reducing transportation of products around the country; it will also improve the continuity of supply of feed to the hens, and the traceability of the feed.

"We also want to be able to monitor functions (feeders, lights, nest ejectors, pop holes, ventilation etc) at all times during the day, but cannot be present in each house all the time. Therefore we plan to have the controls monitored by a computer that can then text 'error messages' to a specific mobile phone, alerting them of a possible problem. This technology is available but has not been used in the free range egg industry to date, and we want to move Cornhill Farm to the forefront of production technology. We want to make Cornhill Farm a 'Best Practice' example to other free range egg producers, and to have an in-house hygienic carcase and egg waste disposal facility. Individual farms are unable to share incineration facilities, therefore if we can prove that installing an incineration facility makes economic sense, we hope other farmers in the sector will follow suit." It is estimated all work will be completed by the summer of 2007.

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Maria Ford, at Government Office South West on 01752 635015 before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

For further information please contact Clare Morgan of the Objective One Communications Team on 01872 223439 or 07973 813647 or email: cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Cornwall free range project through the European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) EAGGF is one of the four funds that make up the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. EAGGF aims to: Help preserve the link between diversified farming and the land; Improve and support the competitiveness of agriculture as a key activity in rural areas; ensure the diversification of the economy in rural areas; help to keep communities thriving in rural areas; preserve and improve the environment, the landscape and the rural heritage.

Cornhill Farm has been supplying free range eggs locally and to Waitrose since 2002. For the chicken house computer technology a wireless link is envisaged, where the computer in each chicken shed could communicate with, and down load data to the single office computer. This data link would enable the management of finer aspects of the housing environment, ensuring the hen's best possible welfare. Internal temperatures, wind direction and wind speed will be monitored and roof ventilator, side ventilators and pop holes adjusted accordingly to prevent draughts and cool spots in the houses. The data link would also monitor the feed cycle and water consumption, and with preset levels set, an alarm could be raised to alert staff of impending problems before they had an effect on the stock. A web cam will help check from a remote position that the stock are content and acting normally.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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