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New Culver Duck hatchery meeting high expectations

Culver Duck Farms Inc. is a family owned business, based in Middlebury, Indiana, USA. It raises and processes approximately 3.5 million ducks annually. Last year they opened a full new NatureForm hatchery after the previous hatchery had fully burnt down. Results surpass expectations.

Culver Duck recognises the value of the Asian marketplace and sets on a path to grow ducklings that meet the high standards required for Peking duck and other oriental dishes. That commitment positioned Culver Duck favourably in the natural food market where quality is held to a higher standard.

Culver Duck's products include duck breasts and cooked duck halves in five flavours, as well as duck sausages in a variety of flavours - and even lotions, soaps, BBQ sauces and rubs, and chicken products. It supplies its products to restaurants and specialty stores around the world.  The company has earned many awards for its products.
In July of 2007 lighting caused a fire at the Culver Duck hatchery, consuming over 700,000 eggs and the entire hatchery. The decision was taken to design and build the best hatchery possible.

Tim Rouch and Ruben Rico at Culver Duck went to several different locations in the US to see which options were available. “The systems that we looked at were all single stage as we were interested in incorporating the latest technology”, Tim says.

Culver Duck’s new hatchery was opened in June of 2009 incorporating the latest in technology in incubation and ventilation. It hatches and processes over 100, 000 ducklings per week. According to Ruben Rico, Culver’s hatchery manager, “We are getting the best quality, performance and hatch that we have ever had. The hatch has improved between 4-5% over our old hatchery.  That means a lot to us.”

One of the initial criteria that Tim looked at in incubation was how well the incubator would seal in order to optimize temperature, humidity, power consumption and CO2 control. Tim stated, “By getting in each of the different machines at the different locations and shutting the door, it was easy to determine if it was well sealed by seeing if there was light intrusion. The NatureForm Phoenix™ was the only machine where no light leakage could be detected.  The machine is very well ventilated with an extensive cooling system.”

With Tim being from a maintenance background he looked at equipment not only from a performance but also from a longevity and maintenance point of view. It was Tim’s opinion that the NatureForm machine would outlast and be easier and cheaper to maintain than other machines because the good quality of parts and construction.

Culver also uses NatureForm’s Sentinel™ hatchery control system. This system manages and monitors all incubators and hatchers as well as the entire building’s ventilation systems. The ventilation system in the hatchery is unique in that there is absolutely no ductwork in the entire building.  This eliminates the difficult task of cleaning ductwork and the potential of contamination. All incoming air for the building is processed in the main hallway in the centre of the building. The main cooling is provided by well water which stays between 55-60°F (13-15.6°C) saving the expense of having a chiller system.  All setters and egg rooms are on one side of the hallway and all hatchers and processing are on the other.  The system is designed so that even if all the doorways are left open there can be no cross contamination in the system. There is backup cooling and heating in the plenums above the setters and hatchers if needed. The air in the intake plenums is maintained within 1 degree of 75°F (24°C) all year long. 

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