Last week, I attended the annual IPPE poultry show in Atlanta, GA. Poultry lighting is one of many interesting niches within the lighting industry. Most of the show is NOT lighting. In fact, the show is not for the faint of heart. The IIoT poultry processing machines were on display with grim signs reading “Smart Slaughtering” and “Smart Evisceration.” One lounge at the show had a more humorous sign reading, “Meat Up Lounge.” There were 6-10 poultry-specialized lighting manufacturers exhibiting, a few of which were Chinese factories.
Historically, the goal in poultry lighting was even illumination throughout the poultry house. There are now influential animal welfare groups putting pressure on large end-customers, like McDonald’s, to improve animal welfare in poultry houses. The new theory on animal welfare lighting is called “Gradient Lighting.” The idea is to put larger amounts of light at the feeding trays and water stations toward the middle of the house and have intensity drop off toward the outer walls. This aids the birds in feeding and drinking but then allows them to move to dimly lit areas when they’re done feeding. This is believed to minimize stress for the animals with a variety of benefits to the birds and poultry producers. The integrator, Tysons, is actively pushing all of the poultry lighting manufacturers to offer a gradient lighting solution, as it will be a future requirement. Here is an article with more information about gradient lighting theory for poultry.
As a result of pressure from McDonald’s and Tysons, every North American manufacturer has recently developed a “feeder light” system that creates this gradient lighting. In almost every case, it is mounted to the feeder bar/pipe as a linear string of lights that illuminate the floor from the feeder pipe, located a foot or two above the floor. This creates the desired gradient and is very simple and inexpensive. Most of these new feeder light systems are 24VDC, and each light on the string is only 2-5 Watts. The system looks a little bit like temporary construction string lights attached to a long feeder pipe hundreds of feet long. Durability is critical, with some systems boasting an IK09 impact rating and IP65 (if not socketed). Some were socketed for screw-based LED lamps, and others were downward-facing LED puck light strings.
Below are two images of the feeder light system by Ag Lighting Innovations. Note the little pucks below the feeder bar, shining down, and the darker areas created near the side walls of the house. More information on the Ag Innovations feed line lighting system is available here.
Precision Lighting specializes in dimming control units for poultry houses. These are typically 24VDC circuits with hundreds of lamps. Substantially dimming hundreds of lamps creates difficult in-rush current issues. The Precision dimmers offer a variety of dimming methods, including leading-edge and trailing-edge phase cut, 0-10V, and combinations of these approaches. There are reasons to believe that leading-edge phase-cut dimming creates voltage and current spikes that can be damaging to drivers and LED chips, but the issue is messy and complex.
Poultry lighting and control companies that I spoke with at the show include: Overdrive Lighting, Ag Lighting Innovations, Precision Lighting, Once Innovations by Signify (acquired by Signify), and Hato Lighting. These have been the primary poultry lighting players for a long time and this doesn’t seem to have changed over the years. I did not get to speak with CBM Lighting (Canadian) nor Lumen Pros.
Some of the manufacturers were showing systems with blue or red monochromatic light separate or combined with white lights. Most as TLEDs, but some as pucks. Blue is believed to make the birds freeze in place, so they can be easily caught for veterinary exams or other purposes, with reduced risk of injury to the birds. Red light is believed to sexually stimulate the adult birds, through their eyes, but also their skin and skulls, glandular hormonal stimulation. Red & white TLEDs are also used to attract layers back up into their cage “systems” in the evening to minimize eggs laid on the house floor, which is considered a significant problem by large-scale egg farmers. These “system lights” are typically 48VDC with 0-10V control.
The major integrators in the poultry industry are Tysons, Pilgrims’ Pride, Peco Foods, and Sanderson Farms. These integrators dictate growing technology to large farms, to get consistent results for the largest customers, like McDonald’s. When the integrators say to do something the lighting manufacturers and the farmers do it.
I heard about another trend of poultry houses getting larger and larger. These are called Mega-Houses, and now there are even Mega-Mega-Houses. Traditional poultry houses might be 500 ft long and 50 ft wide. The Mega-Mega-Houses are now twice those dimensions at 1000 ft X 100 ft, which is 4X the square footage. I was told Mega-Houses are prevalent on the DelMarVa peninsula.
Top image: Overdrive Lighting’s new OverFeed 5, feeder pipe-mounted Gradient Lighting solution. More information on Overdrive’s OverFeed 5 can be found here.