A MAJOR Penrith based egg producer says hen welfare and egg laying productivity are benefitting from an innovation grant of £50,000 from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP).

Established in 1997, the award-winning The Lakes Free Range Egg Company has been supplying eggs to nationally recognised food service and retail customers, for decades.

Its CEO David Brass said: “From our earliest days, we have collaborated and invested in research and development to improve the welfare of our birds and those on the now 80 plus farms that produce eggs for us. We currently grade and pack some 1.5m eggs a day.

“The CLEP grant went towards a total project costing £208,000 to develop an app and associated hardware that will improve data collection on farming production processes. The key development is that the data is live and not self-reported, with 200 streams of data being collected on each farm. The quality of this data means that it can be used for future research into productivity and welfare too.

“As a family business, we work closely with the farmers whose chickens produce the eggs we pack and process. It’s important to us that we support their efforts to produce excellent eggs and maximise farm income, whilst taking good care of their chickens.

“The project has been the culmination of seven years of working closely with Farm Animal Initiative in Oxford and our farmers across Cumbria, Scotland and other parts of the UK. Collecting data has improved animal welfare, which in turn increases egg-laying. That has increased to more than 350 eggs per bird per flock against an industry average of 330. We are now looking at a research project with Newcastle University focussed on the sounds that hens make and what that can tell us,” added David.

The company also received a separate CLEP grant of £25,000 for a battery to store energy from their solar panels, which has made the energy exchange process five per cent more efficient.

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria LEP, said: “It is great to see the difference that the Innovating for Success grant programme has made to David and Helen’s egg business. They are an excellent example of why we launched it; to encourage small and medium sized businesses across Cumbria to invest in either innovating or decarbonising their business.”

The LEP’s ‘Innovating for Success’ grant was launched in September 2022, resulting in dozens of businesses being awarded a share of a £1 million grant to either support innovation or cut carbon emissions. Grants were split into two areas: