Jamesway Incubator Company Inc.

Setting the global standard for poultry incubators
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Since 1890, Jamesway Incubator Company Inc. has been designing and manufacturing quality, efficient incubation systems and hatchery equipment. Based in Cambridge, Ontario, and offering a ‘Worry Free Hatchery’ value proposition to poultry producers and niche industries such as vaccine facilities throughout the world, Jamesway has become a leader in innovation and service. Celebrating 125 years in 2015, the company continues to expand its expertise and geographic reach with both standard and customized systems.

Jamesway Incubator Company Inc.

Ian MacKinnon, president of Jamesway, has been with the business for 20 years. Growing up on a farm in Nova Scotia, he always wanted to stay involved in agriculture. MacKinnon deviated from production in early adulthood, immersing himself in technology, information and innovations that keep modern agricultural operations running efficiently.

Now he leads an international team of 150 people across manufacturing, distribution, research and development and other key departments. Outside of Ontario, the business has a manufacturing facility in China and warehouses in Russia and North Carolina, U.S. Distribution includes more than 90 countries worldwide including growing markets in Asia and the Middle East.

Simple, efficient and safe technology

“About 80 percent of our volume is standard models,” explains MacKinnon. “These are designed to work for just about everybody, but some people want a few modifications to the units. So in a limited way, we do that and some custom work as well, but it’s not a majority of our work. We try to give customers what they want and in most cases, that’s a simple machine – a box with hot air moving around racks of eggs, although it is trickier than it seems.”

Despite what he refers to as conceptually simple, Jamesway’s incubators have adopted new technology over the years in order to improve efficiencies and help customers increase yield. MacKinnon and his colleagues strive to help customers respond to needs in the marketplace. Most adaptations address equipment safety, which means newer machinery is safer for people to run and easier to sanitize.

“The new designs use more plastics, which are more resistant to chemicals and provide easier cleaning,” MacKinnon elaborates. “With most applications, end users have to be able to regulate internal temperature within 0.1 degrees. Our equipment uses advanced controls and we have a controls engineer on staff to help us create precision in sequencing and heat anticipation. Many feature touch-screen displays and multiple sensors for optimal control.”

A one-stop shop

Jamesway strives to serve as more than just a supplier for incubation and hatchery equipment. MacKinnon and his colleagues provide a one-stop shop for not only machinery, but also design and ventilation support. The company frequently assists general contractors when part of a design-build project and consorts with electrical contractors to ensure equipment fits and functions well in a new space.

 Typically customers choose from the company’s eight sizes of standard model incubators, although many mix and match models. Clients also request special,  custom-designed products for their operations. To guarantee performance, Jamesway manufactures its own heat exchangers for inside the incubator as well as humidification equipment. The business works with Trane and AAON as HVAC partners to ensure all components are high quality and efficient. Jamesway also offers heat recovery solutions via a company called Soteck in Quebec.

Jamesway Incubator Company Inc.

While the company’s market includes primarily poultry hatcheries, specifically for major poultry brands such as Maple Lodge, Maple Leaf, Tyson and Pilgrim’s, Jamesway also serves a handful of unusual niche markets.

“The more unique work we do is related to the pharmaceutical industry,” says MacKinnon. “Almost 80 percent of the human flu vaccine is produced in Jamesway incubators. It’s a small industry, but important. We do most of this pharmaceutical business in Canada and the U.S., so any flu vaccine dose you get in fall or early winter more than likely comes out of a Jamesway incubator. These companies use a two-stage process, so we build specialized machines for them. They also involve more stainless options, specialized heaters and racks.”

Facing a changing market

Over the last decade, protein consumption has been in fluctuation, making the market more difficult to navigate for poultry producers and their suppliers. “That came from primarily the U.S. economy in ‘08 and ‘09,” says MacKinnon. “Our customers’ biggest variation in demand for chicken comes from quick-serve, fast food and sit-down restaurants – the service sector. When people don’t have money, they don’t go out to eat. They stay home, so when employment was low, the consumption did drop quite a bit.”

Now, he says that trend is reversing. Canada and the U.S. stand as two of the largest consumers of meat protein in the world and consumer preference leans toward chicken. Because it is considered a leaner meat and nutrition is a bigger factor in consumer decision making than it was even a decade ago, the market is on the mend.

The company is also seeking out new growing markets – specifically regions that are working to produce more protein domestically, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Asia. “There is some very interesting ground now for us and we are expecting some increased business coming from these regions,” says MacKinnon. “These regions want to become more independent and less reliant on imports. Many of these areas are developing countries where income is increasing and we can see through market trends that when people have more money to spend, they buy food first – specifically protein.”

No matter how large a geographic footprint the company tackles over the coming years, MacKinnon says Jamesway’s values will remain consistent. “What’s nice about our company is that it is a family of 150 people,” he explains. “That’s a big family but we operate in a niche market, so there is a lot of passion for what we do and many people here have been doing it for a long time – some for 35 to 40 years. At our holiday party, we give out longstanding awards and we regularly hand out 25- and 30-year plaques. I’ve been here 20 years and it’s a nice company to work in. With a family approach, everybody is passionate about the chicken business.”

That passion will continue to drive the business forward as Jamesway Incubator Company Inc. continues its “Worry Free” partnership with customers worldwide.

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