Innovative app for chicken feed nearly doubles profits in pilot test with farmers in Tanzania
1 December 2017
IITA supported pretesting of app that resulted in considerable reduction in costs of feed and an increase in the average weight for broilers
FeedCalculator, an app that generates affordable quality feed recipes for poultry from locally available ingredients, has the potential to be a game changer for poultry farmers as results from its pilot testing saw a near doubling of profits.
The app was co-created by leading Dutch nutritionists and livestock experts in partnership with farmers in developing countries and was tested by the NGO called BRAC and IITA in Tanzania. It will be available this December in the Google Play Store and will be free for all smallholder poultry farmers all over the world.
The pretest results showed that broilers fed using recipes suggested by the app had on average 15% higher weight and that the app on average reduced the cost of feed by 31% compared to regular commercial feed. This resulted, on average, to 80% higher profit due to lower feed costs and higher weight of the birds.
The farmers involved in the study divided their broilers into two batches and fed one half with the usual feed and the other with the self-prepared FeedCalculator mix and after six weeks compared animal growth and feed costs. A total of 4,400 birds were involved in the study.
Frederick Baijukya, a scientist at IITA and coordinator of the N2Africa project, said most of the farmers the project works with, and especially women, also keep poultry. “One of their challenges is the low productivity from the chicken due to poor nutrition. The farmers didn’t have the technology to make good feed formulation. We, therefore, selected Single Spark, as they have a state-of-the-art technology, which can be used to formulate animal feed. And so we started the pilot.”
The pilot was held in three regions in Tanzania (Gmboto, Tegeta, Kimandolu) with 19 farmers. Staff from IITA and BRAC were first trained on the app and they trained the farmers taking part in the pilot study.
Jazira Rashid, BRAC Program Organizer, said: “The farmers were very excited about this knowledge. You buy your raw materials by the quantities prescribed and you just mix it. It is much cheaper.”
“Due to FeedCalculator I improved my produce and doubled my income in just 6 weeks,” said Amina Shemsi, one of the poultry farmers that took part in the pilot study. Halima Mustapha, another poultry farmer using the app concurred: “By using the knowledge of the FeedCalculator, my chicks are growing faster. They are heavier and healthier compared to before.”
Single Spark, the company behind the app, noted that many livestock farmers have serious difficulties making a profit from their livestock due to costly feed. Peter Meijer, from Single Spark, says that on average 70% of the production costs of poultry go to feed as farmers buy costly commercial (imported) feed. A cheaper option is to buy locally mixed feed but the quality is unknown and often poor. Empowering farmers to make their own feed recipe is the solution.
“Feed formulation is very complex. Mixing high-quality balanced feed with the right energy levels, for the lowest price and for the whole year is complex. And that is why we developed the FeedCalculator.
“After several tests and pilots and with the support of BRAC and IITA, it is now time for farmers all over the world to benefit from it. We ask other NGOs to join our mission of empowering farmers to produce their own affordable, quality feed,” Meijer said.
How the app works
The app simply asks farmers to enter: (i) animal breed, (ii) age of animals, (iii) number of animals, and (iv) all the available local ingredients and prices. Based upon this data, the app calculates the most cost-efficient feed mix using algorithms of leading feed experts. The app is free for poultry farmers with less than 1000 chickens. Larger farmers will need to pay a fee of $50 per year or $10 per two months. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or for more information see www.feedcalculator.com.