Ugandan-made incubator a regional attraction

On the poultry farms, deep in the remote lowlands of South Sudan and the DR Congo, as well as in the highlands of Rwanda and Burundi, are thousands of one of the most popular farm machines – the incubator.

The incubator made in Uganda, is leading the way to the development of the poultry industry across the region. “In Uganda, hundreds of these machines are already in use, but capturing the regional poultry breeding market is still a struggle,” says the innovator of the incubator, Godfrey Kasolo Walusimbi of Butenga Chick Star, member of the Africa Agribusiness Academy.

For his unique innovation, Walusimbi was declared the best exhibitor at the annual National Agricultural Show at the Source of the Nile in Jinja in 2012. Constructing incubators and hatcheries was not part of Walusimbi’s plan when he started rearing chicken. In 1988, he started a chicken farm in Kira town, Wakiso district. He named it Butenga Farmers Chick Star.

A few years later, the farm had grown to a respectable commercial level. “I wanted to acquire an incubator and a hatchery to start hatching my own chicks, but I realised that importing the incubator was expensive. I devised means of making one myself,” Kasolo says. That was in early 2000. “By 2005, we had made one incubator for our farm and another that we displayed at the agricultural fair in Jinja. Many farmers in the region fell in love with it and orders started flowing in,” Kasolo says.

That is how the innovation eased chicken breeding in Uganda. At the moment, many big poultry farms, including Muva Farm and Najjuma Poultry Farm, are using incubators made by Butenga Farm. “Breeding is much better than selling eggs. It is actually adding value to eggs,” he says. “An egg costs sh200 at the farm at the moment. If you have an incubator and are able to hatch the eggs, a chick will cost between sh2,200 and sh3,000, depending on the quality. “Besides, there is a ready market for chicks, as the industry is expanding. According to the 2009 animal census, there were over 37 million chickens in Uganda.”

It took a team of electrical engineers, carpenters and metal fabricators to produce what has now become one of the most widely used incubators and hatcheries in Uganda and the East African region. “Most of the materials we use are imported. These include the switches and the heat-controlling capsules,” Kasolo explains. “The other parts are white boards which are imported from the Far East. We also use pine wood, which we acquire locally. We use pine because it is light and is not easily attacked by wood pests,” he says.

Inside the incubator are trays on which the eggs are placed. Each tray takes 140 eggs. For the small incubator of 860 eggs, there are seven trays. The number goes up to 24 for incubators with the capacity to take 3,360 eggs and to over 70 trays for the one that incubates 10,080 eggs. “The gaps in the trays are created depending on the size of the eggs. If you do not consider the size of the eggs while constructing the trays, you will go wrong,” Kasolo says.

All incubators use single phase power. However, Kasolo advises that a farmer must have a stand-by generator that switches on automatically when the grid power goes off. “In the event that a farmer does not have a stand-by generator, the eggs will go bad when the power goes off,” Kasolo says. The eggs are put in the incubator for 18 days and then three days in the hatching boxes on the floor of the incubator to complete the 21- day cycle. Kasolo advises that in order to hatch chicks every week, one has to put eggs in the incubator every week. For instance, when using an incubator with a capacity of 10,080 eggs, a farmer should put in 2,500 eggs every week until it becomes a cycle.

The largest incubator from Butenga has a capacity of 100,000 eggs while the smallest has a capacity of 860 eggs. There are also others with a capacity of 3,360; 6,800; 10,000 and 15,000. If well-maintained, according to Kasolo, a unit can last many years. For the last three years, Butenga has been making an average of 16 incubators every year. According to Kasolo, the highest demand comes from eastern Uganda. “We have already supplied over 130 incubators around Uganda. We have also sent four to Rwanda and several to South Sudan and the DR Congo,” Kasolo says. The cost of the incubator varies between sh4.5m and sh16m, depending on its capacity.


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