• UK start-up OPTIfarm provides 24/7 support and service for poultry houses
  • Start-up advances digitization in chicken farms
  • Investment in OPTIfarm strengthens Evonik’s precision livestock activities

Evonik has invested in the startup OPTIfarm Ltd. through its venture capital unit and now holds a minority stake in the company, which is headquartered in Chesterfield (United Kingdom). OPTIfarm is already generating revenue through delivering round the clock monitoring of poultry houses, ensuring better animal welfare, improving livestock performance and enabling fail-safe operations. OPTIfarm’s team uses whatever imagery, automation and sensors that are already available, including temperature, water and feed. This allows checks to take place from afar. Any issues can be discovered and corrected quickly, saving the farmer time and money.

The transaction took place in the context of a spinout of OPTIfarm from the Applied Group. The parties have agreed not to disclose the amount of the investment.

“We are impressed with the global commercial success that OPTIfarm has already achieved,” says Bernhard Mohr, head of Venture Capital at Evonik. “Evonik possesses the ideal experience and expertise to support OPTIfarm through further growth.”

The OPTIfarm services and business model was developed by poultry producer and entrepreneur David Speller as part of his existing business. Speller said, “I am delighted that the investment from Evonik enables OPTIfarm to now operate as a focused standalone company. With heritage as a poultry producer and a unique pay as you go business model, OPTIfarm is now positioned to serve a larger number of poultry farmers.”

“OPTIfarm is an excellent strategic fit for Evonik’s developing precision livestock business,” says Emmanuel Auer, head of the company’s Animal Nutrition business line. “Supporting customers in improving performance and sustainability strengthens our Animal Nutrition growth engine.”

As part of its venture capital activities Evonik plans to invest a total of €100 million in promising start-ups with innovative technologies and in leading specialized venture capital funds. The focus here is on Evonik’s Health & Care, Smart Materials, Animal Nutrition, and Specialty Additives growth engines as well as on digitalization. Evonik currently has investments in more than twenty start-ups and venture capital funds.

05/10/2018 Robotics and OPTIfarm

We are working with partners on robotics. Recent examples of new learning allowing continual improvement on clients farms includes the lessons we are learning from our UK Robotics work where we have some surprising new information on animal psychology


After an extensive judging process, we are pleased to announce that OPTIfarm has been selected as a Finalist in the ‘Innovation of the Year’ category.
Other finalists in the same category are ‘PECK drinks’ & Just Egg Chilled Foods.
The prestigious awards ceremony will be taking place at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington on June 26.

A Presentation that was made by David Speller (Managing Director of Applied & OPTIfarm) at the Avi Carne Forum, Madrid – 26th April, 2018


Levels of Foot Pad Dermatitis (FPD) are not only used as key welfare indicators during inspections by animal health authorities but can also lead to reduced financial returns from a flock. The resultant ulceration on the underside of the broiler foot means that moving around can become uncomfortable and as such movement to feeders and drinkers maybe impaired which can result in lower weight gains, poorer quality carcases and for processors the inability to trade lesion free feet into markets such as China. Principally FPD is caused by wet and sticky litter, although causes have been noted on our own farms due to sticky droppings.

The FPD lesion starts from an erosion of the skin caused by the litter conditions, once the surface of the skin has been eroded the lesion progresses to become an ulcer. As wells as being painful the break in the skin surface can offer an entry point for bacteria causing infections.

The aim of this paper will be to discuss the specifically the management of the ventilation to ensure the litter in the broiler house is kept dry and friable and thus the occurrence of FPD should be reduced. Other matters such as litter type, drinker management, nutrition, stocking density, genetics, light management, etc are not discussed.

Ventilation Control to Reduce FPD

Given that the major cause of FPD on farm is wet or more importantly sticky litter, keeping litter dry and friable must be a key goal. It is worth suggesting that when broilers are younger the skin cells on the feet are softer and more prone to damage and hence leading to increased resultant FPD.

What should be classed as cold damp weather is dependent on the difference between the external climate and the internal conditions of the broiler house. What we are concerned with is the difference between the internal and the external and not necessarily the specific temperature or relative humidity outside.

Basic Principles of Air & Moisture Together

  • Warm air can hold more moisture by way of water vapour than cold air
  • Warm air rises and cold air sinks
  • Simply put, warm air is light and cool air is heavy
  • Relative humidity is the amount of water vapour present given as a percentage of the total potential of that air given its temperature stated as a percentage.
  • As air temperature changes by 1-degree Celsius the ability to hold moisture changes by 5%.
  • Warm the air by 1 degree and the RH% falls by 5% as the warmer air could have held more moisture so relatively it is not as full of water any more, drop the temperature by 1 degree and the RH increase by 5% as the air is becoming saturated.
  • As air cools it is unable to hold as much water vapour and the vapour is released (Dew Point) which can settle on cool surfaces, cold windows, cold walls, cold litter.
  • Air has a mass and should be thought of like water in the way it is moved, to get air or water moving takes a force, once moving to keep it moving requires less force.
  • Like water air in small jet streams does not travel very far, but large columns of air move further but require more force, like a large water jet will go long distances but needs lots of force to propel it.

Problem with Venting in Cold Damp Weather

Firstly, lets understand how much air we need to bring into a broiler house at any one time. We all appreciate that the amount of air needed is dependent on the total amount of body weight in the shed. Lots of small birds need less air than lots of big birds. We also know that in hot weather we need more air than in cold weather.

Aside from replenishing oxygen in the broiler house a considerable amount of the air volume vented through a broiler house is done so to keep birds cool, remove moisture, remove dust and remove waste gases. The actual requirement of the bird to replenish the available oxygen required is quite low (approximately 0.5 M3/Kg/Hr).

If we remember that we have stated young birds, with softer skin on the feet, are susceptible to FPD as their skin cells can be eroded easily and a lesion can form and if we link this to the fact that younger, smaller birds need less ventilation we can start to see the problems we may encounter. We want dry friable litter to minimise the FPD, which is best achieved with lots of warm dry ventilation, but what we have is young birds with low ventilation requirements and what we are bringing into the broiler house is low volume, cool damp air as it is cold and wet outside.

Our only hope is to bring the cold damp air into the house and let it mix with the warmer air  away from the broilers in the broiler house with the aim of reaching the birds with a mixture of the airs with some fresh oxygen having allowed some of the old air to be expelled through the extraction fans or naturally aspirated vents.

However, this low volume cold damp air wants to do everything we don’t want it to do, it is cold so it wants to sink down on to the birds, it is damp and so full of moisture that wants to condense somewhere and it is in low volumes so it doesn’t want to be thrown very far.

Shed Design Assisting Cold Damp Weather Ventilation

We have many designs of broiler houses around the world with shed structure and ventilation methods designed dependant on the most common local conditions. Often the main focus is how to keep the birds cool in the summer as heat stress can kill the broilers, whilst poor venting in cooler weather, whilst impacting on performance, rarely kills the birds. In countries that are relatively cool all year we see buildings with high roofs to allow cool air to remain away from birds whilst in hooter climates the roofs are kept low to minimise the create better wind tunnels during hot weather venting. It is generally these lower ceiling sheds that create the greatest challenge to vent in cold damp weather.

So How Can We Manage to Ventilate in Cold Damp Weather and Minimise FPD

We must accept the parameters we cannot change, or at least not easily within the budget of a broiler farm, namely the external temperature and humidity.

Now consider what we can manage which is the number of inlets we can utilise, the size of the column of air we want to bring in and at what speed.

We know that cold damp air is heavy and takes a lot of force to get it moving, and we know that like water, once it is moving it takes less energy to keep it moving, therefore we might want to consider ensuring sufficient air pressure to get the air moving from no movement such as with modulating fans controls, but where we have constant fans running we may want to reduce that pressure slightly so as not to over speed the air causing excessive turbulence above the birds.

Remembering how water comes out of a hose, and that air moves like water, we know that a larger column of air moves distance better than a small fine jet of air, so in cold damp conditions aim for fewer larger air streams than lots of tiny little air streams. Some inlet manufacturers have tried to make this happen automatically.

How Does Cold Air Sinking Cause Wet Sticky Litter?

The first thing that happens when cold ventilation air sinks to the floor is that it drops down on to the litter surface leading to the litter surface cooling down. This cooler surface to the litter then allows either warmer moisture rising from within the litter or the moisture in any of the warm air above the litter to condense on the litters surface, creating moist sticky conditions.

This is especially noticeable if it occurs during dark periods when the birds are resting and the air movement in the broiler house become less turbulent without the thermal currents created by the broilers body heat warming the air in the house. In addition, the birds sit on the litter bringing the warm moist air immediately surrounding their bodies down to cold litter where the moisture can condense.

The key to successful ventilation which will reduce the occurrence of FPD is to ensure you keep the cool damp air up above the birds for sufficient time to mix with existing warm air and you must ensure the air reaches across the desired distance to replenish all areas in the broiler house.


It is possible to ventilate most facilities for cold damp weather however each location can be unique and each shed requires initial setup and monitoring. Ultimately air flow should be tested with a smoke machine as it is only then that the human eye can really appreciate where this air is going and try to predict its impact on the birds and their litter.

Monitoring Update

We’re always keen to spread the word about what we’re trying to achieve at OPTIfarm, which is happier birds producing better results. Below are some things we’ve been helping our farms with this week.

1. Pressure in the Netherlands

One of our farms in The Netherlands was experiencing issues with ventilation in the evening time. The team then called the farm manager out tweak some settings so that the birds could more comfortable overnight. This will also see likely improvements in FCR.

2. Bothersome Biomass

Some of the farms we monitor use biomass and a recent fault with a boiler lead to reductions in temperature. This can be difficult to manage, especially with lower outside temperatures. With a few tweaks to the ventilation and some close monitoring, the birds were made more comfortable until an engineer arrived.

3. Creeping CO2

One of our Shropshire farms was experiencing rising levels of CO2. If left to get too high, CO2 can cause respiratory issues for the birds. On noticing that CO2 levels were creeping up, the farm manager could be alerted early to resolve the issue before it became damaging.

4. Fighting with Feed

Over in Australia, some issues with the consistency of feed data raised a flag that there might be issues. The team quickly pointed the farm manager towards the problem houses so the issue could be resolved before it started to affect the birds. In the end, it turned out to be a feed bridge between 2 houses.

If you’re interested in learning more about what OPTIfarm can do for you. Get in touch using the E-mail: optifarm.team@appliedgroup.org.uk – or – Call: +44 (0) 1246 569 066

OPTIfarm – Reducing Insurance Premiums

Lowering Risk & Lowering Premiums

A recent update to the way certain policies are underwritten by a global insurer means users of the OPTIfarm service should be entitled to a reduction in their insurance premiums.

With OPTIfarm agents monitoring farms all over the world 24/7 to ensure conditions remain optimum, it has been determined that the service lowers risk on farm, therefore lowering insurance premiums.

In many cases, the savings in insurance will more than cover the cost of the OPTIfarm service. As a result, all benefits go to the farmer who gets a reduced premium, plus 24/7 support and additional insight into their production.

Get in touch

If you’re keen to learn more about whether you and your farm can benefit from this please contact either your insurer or us using:

E-mail – optifarm.team@appliedgroup.org.uk

Telephone – +44(0)1246 569 066

OPTIfarm – FREE 7 Day 24/7 Monitoring

Try Monitoring Your Farm FREE for 7 Days

OPTIfarm uses farm data and CCTV to monitor your livestock 24/7. As well as increased farm performance – achieved by improving margins via better FCR or growth – you’ll have the peace of mind that a specialist team is always looking, even when you can’t.

To see how the OPTIfarm monitoring service has helped one of our existing clients, please visit our article – Peace of Mind at Corfton Farm

Do I qualify?

To qualify for 7 days FREE, you must have an up-to-date control system (SCOV, Fancom, Hotraco, Big Dutchman, Roxell etc) with the relevant sensors for climate and consumption connected via a PC on site. If you don’t have a PC on site, get in touch and our friendly team will see whether there’s an alternative means of getting you set up.

Do I have to be in the UK?

No, this monitoring service is not limited to UK farms. We currently work with farms in Peru, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands so wherever you are, we can help!

As a result of the 7 days, you’ll have a better idea of how OPTIfarm can help support your farm and which service provides the best fit.

How do I start?

If you’re interested in trying us for 7 days please contact us using – optifarm.team@appliedgroup.org.uk – OR – +44 (0) 1246 569 066