Innovation Bootcamp: visiting Kipster
In October for the third year in a row the ITEM group organized the Innovation Bootcamp for Entrepreneurship. As part of the course the participants visited animal- and environment-friendly poultry farm Kipster.
“Welcome to Kipster. The revolutionary farm” a sign reads. On the outside the farm on the North-Limburg countryside is a modern building covered in solar panels. Inside it’s dusty: 24,000 laying chicken are scuttling around in an enormous, bright courtyard filled with tree stumps. The chicken produce around 22,000 eggs a day which find their way to discount supermarket chain Lidl. Looking out over the courtyard, co-founder Ruud Zanders gives a presentation about the start-up company which produced its first eggs just a year ago.
Background: producing for the lowest cost
According to Zanders, ever since WWII the goal has been to produce as much food as possible for the lowest cost. Small family farms disappeared in favour of large-scale specialization. Despite the consequences – e.g., the impact of livestock farming on global land use - Zanders saw no reason to change the (lucrative) production process when he took over his father’s poultry farm.
However, when the farm went bankrupt in 2007, Zanders decided to make a radical change. He started talking with NGO’s in the area of environment protection and animal welfare. At the same time he met entrepreneurs with similar ideas. Together they decided on creating ‘the best layer farm in the world’ that would only produce ‘animal-, environment- and human-friendly’ eggs: Kipster.
In October 2016 Kipster signed a 5-year contract with supermarket chain Lidl for 7.5 million eggs a year. The deal allowed them to start up and build their first farm which welcomed its first chickens in September 2017.
Innovation: from indoor forest to white birds
The company presents itself as a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture, based on innovations like the following:
- Indoor forest. The chicken are kept in a so called indoor garden. Zanders explains: “Chicken are forest animals. They don’t like open spaces where they are an easy prey. That’s why they probably won’t use 90 percent of the 10 hectares that are legally demanded to get the ‘free range’ label.” Although their birds are not free-range, Kipster has earned a maximum 3 stars ranking for animal welfare.
- Residual products. Kipster claims they are the only poultry company in the world that uses residual products (mainly from bakeries) as fodder.
- 'Climate neutral egg.’ The farm only holds white birds which need less food than brown birds and therefore are more sustainable. Besides the farm has solar panels and dust filters to reduce fine particle emission.
- Growing roosters. Worldwide 3.3 billion roosters are year are killed straight away. Kipster grows their roosters are sells them as meat, so they have a purpose.
According to Zanders multinationals like Unilever and McDonald’s already came by to have a look. In 2019 a second farm in the Netherlands and one in Belgium will open their doors. From 2020 on the company plans to expand to other countries.
The visit to Kipster was part of the Innovation Bootcamp on Entrepreneurship which took place from October 15-26, 2018. This annual course, organized by the Innovation, Technology Entrepreneurship & Marketing Group, teaches PhD and PDEng students all the basics in entrepreneurship (e.g. marketing, finance, business model development). Next to an excursion, entrepreneurial skill training, the Dutch Design Week and networking opportunities were part of the program.