The United Nations Best Small Business: Good Food for All competition is welcoming applications from small and medium-sized food businesses. The organizers are looking for “everyday heroes” changing their communities, countries and the world for the better. Pakistani SME, Poulta, is an example of how an enterprise is using innovation to address nutrition security in its community and improve traceability and sustainability in the process. This business is disrupting the poultry industry to enable farmers to detect, predict and prevent problems early while adapting to challenges and making big plans for the future. To apply to the competition, visit this page.
In Pakistan, there is an urgent need to improve the nutrition status of many sectors of the population, specifically the protein intake and nutrition security of vulnerable populations such as children and women of reproductive age. In particular, Pakistan is experiencing two forms of malnutrition, anemia and stunting; the national prevalence of under-five stunting is 37.6% and, among the adult population, 52.1% of women of reproductive age are anemic.
To help overcome these challenges, Poulta has developed a data-driven system for poultry farmers which monitors air and water quality, mortality rates, feed consumption, and other productivity factors. Farmers are also able to monitor multiple farms at once with this equipment, meaning they can use their time more effectively and streamline operations. In addition, by using artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, big data and blockchain technologies, Poulta has developed the very first traceability approach, globally, for eggs and chickens from farm-to-fork. This technology demonstrates when and where these eggs and chickens were grown, how they reached the consumer and provides assurance that the products are hygienic and free of disease. By providing an end-to-end solution, this software system is helping to improve the productivity of the poultry sector and provide adequate protein to those who need it.
So far, Poulta’s solution has been successfully deployed in 150 controlled poultry sheds, where it has resulted in a 1% reduction in mortality, 10–15% reduction in medicine costs, 15% reduction in energy consumption, and a 5–8% increase in production, which has collectively helped farmers increase their profitability by up to US$30,000.
Facing COVID challenges
As was the case for enterprises across the globe, Poulta was seriously affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government measures that emerged in response. As cases of the virus spread, city lockdowns and mass social distancing orders came into effect across Pakistan. Although seemingly unrelated to Poulta’s operations, these restrictions proved to be hugely significant. In Pakistan, chicken is typically served at large gatherings such as weddings and other functions, and these events comprise a significant proportion of the poultry industry’s demand.
Consequently, when gatherings were banned by the Government, demand for chicken fell, negatively impacting poultry farmers’ sales which led to a decline in purchasing of Poulta’s software and equipment due to a lack of available funds. Furthermore, travel restrictions and border closures meant that Poulta was unable to source devices and manufacturing materials from overseas, namely China.
Innovating for survival
Despite the significant challenges Poulta faced as a result of the pandemic, the SME managed to retain all employees and continue with manufacturing and R&D operations throughout 2020. For this, the employees credit the enterprise’s founder, Ali Solangi’s, adaptability; his ability to find ways to carry on with normal business operations despite the restrictions demonstrates both his and the company’s resilience, while continued investment into research and development (R&D) has enabled the enterprise to improve products to support them moving forward. Specifically, Poulta has been able to develop improved versions of the monitoring hardware and software, which will aid them in scaling activities in the future, as well as streamlining device manufacturing, enhancing R&D capacity and improving product deployments to farmers.
Looking to the future
For the months and years ahead, Poulta has big plans. In 2021, the enterprise has begun paid deployments of their solution, as many of their clients in the past were being used to demonstrate the potential of the equipment and, thus, were not paying for the service. However, now, the results from these trials have shown the effectiveness of the services Poulta provides and will allow them to realise the fruits of their labour.
Scaling up is also key to Poulta’s plans for the future. Although the enterprise has its sights set on infiltrating markets in Saudi Arabia, the US, and beyond, their current priority remains their local market in Pakistan.
Poulta is truly on a mission to support farmers, improve nutrition, and provide, for the first time, an end-to-end digitized system for complete traceability of poultry products to the consumer’s plate for a healthier and more hygienic final product.
For more information, see the original article which was published by SUN Business Network.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Poulta.