Imrul’s antibiotic-free smart poultry farm
People often hear parents say, "My children don't want to eat fish." Children love chicken more than fish and it means the demand for chicken is increasing. But when it comes to safe food, people have different thought about chicken meat. Doubts over use of antibiotics in poultry farms is not at all an unreasonable subject of discussion. Not only chicken or all other meats, even eggs and milk are highly affected by antibiotics. If a medicine is given it stays in that animal's body for a certain period. Each medication has a specific 'withdrawal period' and it remains in the animal body till it elapses. The remains of medicine is called drug residue and residues of antibiotics are likely to remain in fish, poultry or cattle meat, eggs and milk. Although we are unknowingly taking it without hesitation, it poses a serious threat to our health. With this in mind, people now looks for organic food and this is the time to overcome the uncertainty of safe food. The whole world is walking in that direction as the demand for organic food is gradually increasing. Over the years, a large market for organic food is taking shape across the world and many getting engaged in organic food production day by day.
Now, let's talk about computer Engineer Imrul Hasan. I met him recently. The young man becomes a true soldier in organic food production by starting a smart poultry farm, absolutely free from use of antibiotic.
The river Bangshai flows past Baraitali village in Gazipur's Kaliakair upazila. A few days back, I went to Imrul's two-storey ancestral house, situated on the river bank. After obtaining his engineering degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), he joined telecommunication sector. He has worked in the country for three years and six years more in the United States, Egypt, Philippines, Abu Dhabi and some other countries.
"I felt the urge to return to the country for two reasons. One is to take care my parents and my daughter's schooling as she was compelled to change her schools six times only for my job locations," Imrul said.
In October, 2014, Imrul returned to Bangladesh and was engaged in IT consultancy. Everything was going well till the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and things had changed since then. Imrul was infected with the deadly virus and had to take admission at a hospital. "Lying in the hospital bed, I was thinking about our immune system. Our food is not protecting our health at all while food adulteration is destroying us invisibly," shared Imrul.
After returning home from the hospital Imrul started studying on organic chicken production. "In December, 2020, I started my organic chicken farm and so far I have received huge positive response from the customers," Imrul gladly added.
Imrul has temperature controls in his farm to determine proper amount of light, air and water management system, which we may define as smart farming. Everything on the farm is controlled by a computer. Imrul has broiler chicken in one section, which has enough space for the chickens to grow in a free environment. I remember seeing this method at a chicken farm in Japan. They were raising chicken in the shed but kept the chickens free so that they can roam around in open places. I have seen the same method at Linz Hall Farm in Newcastle, England. Imrul has 750 broiler chickens.
How can you be so sure that your day-old chicks are free from antibiotics since you buy those from outside? I asked.
"It is difficult to give any guarantee right in the start, but after 10 days there will be no residue that's for sure," Imrul replied.
What is the mortality rate at your farm? I asked. It is down to two to three percent now, he replied. 'I am ensuring the chickens' health organically. I feed them apple cider vinegar, which boosts their immune system," Imrul said.
I saw chickens are being given granular food as well as red spinach, moringa leaves etc at Imrul's farm. There are 3000 coloured birds, in another side of the farm. He is also rearing around 150 chickens in free space. He's experimenting in many ways. Imrul is quite energetic. Thoughts are as clean as one's workplace. Three thousand more coloured birds in another part of the farm are quite large in size and very much suitable for sale. I wanted to know, the status of the market. He said that all his chickens are sold online. After slaughtering, cleaning and slicing them properly, his staff deliver those to the customer's home in a freezing van. "I am selling my chickens at Tk 250 (USD 2.9) per KG," he said.
Chicken is being sold at Tk 160 to Tk 165 (USD 1.9) per kg in the market, aren't you charging a high price? I asked. Imrul gave me the answer by taking me to the feed production area. It's a very old house. He has set two state-of-the-art machines for making poultry feed. "If you want to keep your chickens healthy in a natural way and without giving them antibiotics, you have to give them healthy food," he replied. The cost is thus higher to ensure healthy chicken production. However, we're still trying to figure out how to reduce the cost, suggested Imrul.
Imrul said, "I got the courage to invest in agriculture by watching your programme and you are the one who said if one goes for farming by understanding it properly, the fear of loss goes down. I am walking on with that inspiration.'
Our chicken production has increased. If the educated young generation takes the lead in the farming sector, the picture of farming will change. Following Imrul, many others will come forward to build organic smart poultry farms. One day, safe food will be ensured through initiatives from such young minds like Imrul Hasan. The media has to stand by the side of young entrepreneurs alongside the government and NGOs. If one Imrul succeeds, more will get inspiration and healthy Bangladesh will stand strong in producing safe food.