Similar to humans, chickens are more productive during longer daylight hours. Unlike humans however, chickens will innately dedicate these daylight hours to lay more eggs and produce more meat. From the perspective of a chicken farmer, this can be extremely advantageous in the spring and summer months, and limiting when the amounts of daylight hours decrease in fall and winter. Our solution is to provide a small solar-powered light to small scale chicken operations to stimulate egg production and chicken growth by supplementing natural daylight hours to ameliorate shorter days and seasonal variations. By using lights from a renewable energy source, and leveraging our lighting expertise through our partners at the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies, we can help to increase the appraisal of chickens year round, develop the supply and access to the nourishing food provided by chickens and their eggs more consistently, increase fluid capital for families and owners of small chicken operations through the winter and fall, and utilize the natural biological process of a multi-functional animal for the positive benefits to the human condition.
Our idea to solve a part of food security is to use use a small, solar-powered LED light called Henlight to extend a chicken’s perceived hours of daylight after the natural stimulation of the sun’s light has ended for the day. Biologically chickens respond to light stimulation by producing more eggs and meat. By using light to extend the amount of stimulation chickens receive, farmers can gain greater value per individual chicken more consistently throughout the variable seasons of the year, thereby securing more access to food in a naturally reproducing, energy efficient, sustainable, and financially viable way.
Henlight is a solar powered, single module lights developed by our colleagues at the University of California, Davis around 2007 as a winning entry for a competition seeking to face the challenge of insufficient lighting in developing countries. Our colleagues at the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies have expertise in this area and have given us access to use their fully built units for testing and modification to find the optimal solar-powered lighting solution for poultry. The light’s strong LED ability to automatically turn on the light when the panel is not receiving sun, store power, and detach from the solar panel are all factors that make this light a great and adaptable product.
Due to logistical errors and poor planning, what turned out to be an incredibly functional product that was built to last and easily maintained, never made it to market. This last year, Edward Silva and a another colleague undertook the distribution of this light in rural Zambia, and were successful in attaining positive user feedback with regards to using the light in households. However, with a lack of entrepreneurs to sell the light, it was not distributed in its desired capacity. However, we have the advantage of a specific and needy market of small scale poultry farmers and potential partnering organizations. This advantage should make it easier to serve, train, and incite excitement because of the direct benefits that will result from greater poultry production. We hope to turn this great product into a solution for food security that can create mass awareness, incite social change, maintain longevity, and disrupt expectations.
For a chicken to produce an egg, and in turn food, many things must occur. Of those, one of the most crucial factors is chickens must receive roughly 12 hours of light per day for 15+ days before they will begin producing eggs. As the days get shorter, chickens biologically begin “closing up shop,” and stop producing eggs. This may leave a chicken, and the farmer’s capital, unproductive for 4-6 months through the fall and winter months. For small scale chicken farmers, this can pose a big problem, especially if they are already having difficulties accessing nutritional food or income. However, by keeping a hen’s light exposure more consistent throughout the year with Henlight, farmers can keep their chickens producing year round, thus increasing the amount of food provided to a family. We believe our solution can relieve this issue.
This method for increasing egg and poultry production on small scale operations using solar power can ultimately create more food using fewer resources than normally expected. This will help to create greater year round value and supply in poultry raising for small scale farmers in emerging markets, and in turn develop entrepreneurial activities around poultry farming.
Additionally, we believe that with many of the other challenges facing our globe, such as climate change, soil degradation, over-use of synthetic fertilizers, obesity, food spoilage, and land loss to both more agriculture and urban areas alike, chickens will play a valuable role. Upfront this sounds seemingly absurd but consider the following: poultry is the second most consumed livestock meat on the globe, chickens have a digestive system that does not produce the dangerous greenhouse gas methane, poultry is generally a leaner meat and an excellent source of protein, and chickens are naturally scavengers for harmful insects and weeds, helping to create nutrient rich fertilizer for soils and rid them of harmful insects. These aspects of poultry clearly point to the many benefits that occur with a wider use of this livestock. Not to mention, because of how quick chickens reproduce (a fertilized egg only needs 21 days to go from the “yolk egg”, to a living breathing, chick) the return on one’s investment is reached far quicker than other livestock. It is for these reasons and more that we believe chickens are a vital part in reaching real-time solutions for pressing issues like food insecurity.
Who: who is our target audience?
Small scale farmers who are food insecure part of the year due to fluctuations in poultry
Entrepreneurs seeking to increase the value and size of their poultry production
Existing networks of small scale chicken operations and agricultural extension programs
Existing foundations dedicated to social development with agricultural livestock and/or solar energy.
Henlight can be easily modified into existing chicken coops, placed outdoors if chickens are kept overnight it a confined area, and can be set up indoors overnights as long as the panel is exposed to the sun. Additionally, Henlight can be adapted for use of families as an indoor light or flashlight if necessary. The small panel and easy to move light can be rigged to illuminate most any chicken housing operation. The light can generally cover a large amount of space depending on its height. We are designing our approach to be as least invasive to the livelihoods of people as possible, but to help engage them in these productive methods.
Geographically, we are looking for areas areas which may face more varying daylengths and seasons than regions on the equator. Generally these areas hover around the southern and northern tropic lines, including areas such as Brazil, India, China, Europe, and the U.S. With our teams agricultural connections in India and Brazil, and of course in the U.S., we see those three markets as potential test points for our product.
International large scale commercial poultry production has grown greatly from heavily researched methods to increase egg production. However these methods are practiced at very large scales. Our system is innovative in the renewable energy source of the light, the method for distribution of the light, and the small scale operations we are targeting, which is where we believe we can have the greatest immediate impact on food security.
We believe we can take this idea to use small-scale solar lights for the purpose of chicken coops through our connection to the Program for International Energy Technology (PIET), the original light developers here at the University of California, Davis, who have some expertise in designing and building these lights, and deploy them to different markets in need of such a product. We can leverage their expertise and use their fully built units for testing and modification to find the optimal solar-powered lighting solution for poultry. Our immediate team’s expertise in avian sciences, agricultural development, business development, and health care to really guide this product into the hands of the people who can really benefit from its use, and in turn move away from food insecurity.
We have developed immediate and long term goals we plan to execute if granted the opportunity:
-Further develop our proof of concept and begin testing.
-Conduct outreach to the networks we have seeded, and develop specific beta markets to test our product beyond Davis, California.
-Become better oriented with large scale commercial poultry operations.
-Develop curriculum to be used in training sessions for farmers wanting to try Henlight.
-Partner with organizations that deploy students to do development work, training them on entrepreneurship and food security alleviation.
-Incite social change and mass awareness by bringing greater value to an animal that can improve the condition of food security with many other beneficial results.
-Further develop our Henlight to meet the specific needs different markets may request.
-Disrupt the status quo of large scale animal production by creating greater value for farmers and families raising poultry and eggs.
-Expand our areas of services and become a hub to help spur innovation in food security related to using poultry as a solution.