With the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project, Iradia company from Laktaši now has automatic nests installed in their 14 farm buildings. They annually produce 12 million fertilized eggs for broiler breeding that are 99.7 percent clean.

“There are many nuances to the production of fertilized eggs,” says Biljana Tomić, Director of Iradia, a producer of fertilized eggs for broiler breeding from Laktaši, Northern Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Laid eggs have the same temperature as mother chicken, 40 degrees, and their content is 100 percent liquid. As eggs start to cool and the liquid starts to shrink, air enters the egg through pores. If that air or the eggshell are contaminated, including by bacteria that may be present in traditional nests and their surrounding, the egg will likely be contaminated too. Such an egg may not hatch, and more often, such an egg may explode during the incubation and contaminate other eggs. That is why hygiene is one of the most important factors in the production of eggs,” she continues.

Before the installation of automatic nests, whereby eggs are removed from nests via a conveyor belt immediately after being laid and placed on a clean base, contamination of fertilized eggs at Iradia used to reach ten percent. With full modernization of the production facilities, contamination is now at 0.3 percent and dropping.

Coming back stronger

Iradia began operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999, trading in chicken farm equipment and day-old parent flocks.  It started producing fertilized eggs in 2004. Biljana notes that they had a large market in Croatia. But as Croatia entered the EU in 2013 and closed its doors to poultry products from BiH that changed. Furthermore, the 2014 floods destroyed parent flocks in eight of Iradia's farm buildings in Petrovo municipality. The company suffered a significant setback, but they came back stronger.

“In the post-floods recovery, we began modernizing our production facilities. By 2019 we had equipped ten of our farm buildings, each 1,000-square-meters big, with automated nests,” says Biljana. Looking for assistance to modernize the remaining four buildings, they applied for a grant with the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project. "Our request for funding was approved. It was a 50/50 grant. We paid for the equipment for two buildings, and the FARMA II project funded the equipment for the remaining two. Now all our farm buildings are equipped with modern nests, and all of our eggs are of the highest hygiene."

Satisfied workers and customers

The installation of automatic nests did not increase Iradia’s overall production of eggs. It stayed at 12 million eggs a year. However, automatic nests eased the work of Iradia’s 60 employees who no longer have to manually collect the eggs, while the improved egg hygiene and fertility rate increased the satisfaction of their customers, chicken meat producers, and processors.

"Our employees used to handpick some 40 to 60 thousands of eggs a day, and that was hard work. Each farm building is some 80 meters long and full of chicken that lay between 3,000 and 5,000 eggs a day depending on the season. Now they are there to supervise the production and handle the eggs as they come off the conveyor belt," says Biljana.

She notes that ever since Iradia started modernizing the production, the number of complaints by their customers dropped significantly. "Since 99.7 percent of our fertilized eggs are clean, results by our customers in hatching day-old chicks and broiler breeding are also much better," adds Biljana.

Eyeing the EU

Iradia has two primary markets, BiH and Serbia. Depending on the market needs, in-country sales and exports vary in size can go 70 vs. 30 percent either way. "At the end of every year, we negotiate annual sales with our buyers for the year to come. That determines which market we sell more to," explains Biljana.

Nonetheless, their real potential for expansion is on the EU market. “In 2019, BiH was allowed to start exporting fresh chicken meat, processed meat, and eggs for processing. Export of fertilized eggs is still not allowed and it is something that the BiH State Veterinary Office would need to work on intensely,” says Biljana. “Though we cannot export to Croatia for almost eight years now, we still have contact with our old buyers there, and once BiH gets the export license, we’ll get back to that market too,” she concludes.