“Our small R&D farm helps resolve global challenges”

16 Sep 2020

Over 160,000 broilers, 2,500 rearing hens, 800 turkeys and 480 ducks were raised in the De Heus R&D farm run by the Van Erp family. A facility in which more than 150 trials were conducted. Trials that contributed to the growth of De Heus. After more than 25 years of hard work, it is time to reflect. Where did it all start and what has changed over the years?

Erp facility
the Netherlands

Where it all began

It all started in 1994 on a small farm in the Dutch countryside. A farm on which Ad and Maria van Erp initially raised pigs. But when this was no longer profitable, the Van Erps took the opportunity to turn it into a trial facility for broilers and other young poultry species. A great fit for De Heus, because there has always been a need for practical research. The facility with 48 floor pens turned out to be a unique site where questions could be accurately tested on a small scale.

Time for change

After many years of frequent and intensive use, a bird was occasionally spotted ranging the walkways between the pens. Escaped through a small hole in the fence. The conclusion was obvious: it was time to renovate! In 2015, a total renovation took place, with the farm growing from 48 to 72 flexible, multi-species floor pens. This development made it possible to compare even more treatments within one trial, under highly monitored conditions. Providing a constant flow of new knowledge within the company.

"Van Erp" goes international

Besides the building itself, much more has changed over the years. Back in the day, De Heus was not yet the international company we know today. Research questions were mostly related to the Dutch market, making it possible to tackle questions in a short timeframe through very practical research. Although research remained practical, today many business units need new knowledge that fit their questions as well. The experiments are therefore designed so that they meet the needs of as many different business units at once. Although the farm is still located in a small village in the Netherlands, by solving worldwide challenges, in a sense it has become very international.

Take a look on the R&D farm

From global crisis to research project

The type of trials conducted at Van Erp have remained relatively constant over the years because there will always be interest in knowledge about nutrient requirements, new raw materials and additives, new broiler breeds etc. However, the research topics, and especially their priority, have changed because they very much depend on what global developments. For example, the need for antibiotic reduction led to more trials focused on animal health. And the climate crisis is a driver for more experiments relating to protein reduction and alternative raw materials.

To be continued

As the past 27 years have shown, research is an ongoing process. There will be plenty more questions to be answered and challenges to be solved. So many more broiler, rearing hen, turkey and duck trials will be conducted at the R&D farm. All in the good care of the Van Erp family.