Gearbox Makers: George Chege's Self-Regulating Chick Brooder

SRCB

Currently one of the best investment opportunities in Kenya, chicken rearing offers high potential returns within a short time period (average 6 weeks for broilers and 6 months for indigenous breeds) and many Kenyan farmers are flocking into this business. This is the potential market George Chege, a soon to be graduate from Nairobi University saw and set out to net.  

Having himself tried the business several years back, Chege faced the two daunting challenges most chicken rearing farmers attest to, diseases and maintaining a conducive (temperature-wise) environment for the chicks. These two factors account for almost 90% of the losses incurred by chicken rearing farmers, he himself having lost almost half of his brood during his first stint at the venture due to a slip-up by one of the workers who forgot to turn on the infrared bulbs that provide heat in the chicken coop. The following morning almost half of his initial stock had died out of cold from the previous night. “See, it’s a labor intensive venture as one has to constantly check on the chicks especially during their early days between 1 to 14 days for broilers,” he explains. This is a common occurrence echoed by thousands of chicken rearing farmers.

For his fourth year mechanical design project, he decided to find a solution to this problem by designing an automated temperature sensing gadget that will alert a farmer when temperature is dipping or going above recommended levels. His project was just a concept with ideas acquired from reading articles and watching videos from the web and was good enough for him to pass the unit in school, but he still had the urge to develop the product. After an initial attempt at the fab lab in his university, he joined Gearbox as a member determined to make the project a success.

Chege demonstrating how the SRCB works

Chege demonstrating how the SRCB works

Named "Self Regulating Chick Brooder" or "SRCB", the gadget consists of a micro controller fitted with Temperature sensors (as many as necessary depending on the size of chick brooder and number of chicks), infra-red bulbs, a GSM module that manages communication between the gadget and the farmers mobile phone. He also developed a program based on C/C++ for the ATMEGA micro-controller that regulates the temperature of the coop corresponding to the age of the chicks.

“Chicks require different temperature levels at different stages of their growth” he explains. The code reads temperature levels from the sensors and switches on and off the infrared bulbs to maintain the temperature at the recommended levels all while transmitting the data to the farmer’s mobile phone who now has an easier time managing temperature levels in the coop. The gadget also transmits regular information that alerts the farmer when any of its functions break down or when temperatures drop to critical levels. 

Sample text message SRCB sends to a farmer indicating temperatures from two Sensors and the age of the chicks

Sample text message SRCB sends to a farmer indicating temperatures from two Sensors and the age of the chicks

Having ran several successful tests with local chicken farmers, he is currently looking for investors to help mass produce the product.

He is especially impressed with the equipment and the amazingly short time he took to develop the product from concept to prototype at Gearbox and he is looking to further iterate on his prototype to improve performance. We can't wait to see where he gets with the product!