Potters Poultry is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014. Started by William Potter in the 1960s, the growth of the company, and its willingness to adapt to every challenge and opportunity over the years, has allowed it to become the only UK poultry equipment manufacturer supplying customers worldwide.
From nest boxes and feeders to ventilation and lighting, Potters’ laying and rearing equipment has earned a strong reputation for robust reliability in countries from South Africa and the Middle East to the Americas, Australia and Asia.
The Warwickshire-based company also rears more than 2 million birds a year – trading as Potters Pullets. The rearing division now supplies farms all over the UK from its company-owned rearing sites, assisted by selected contract rearing farms.
“We are delighted to be celebrating our 50th anniversary,” said Olivia Potter, who along with her brother Justin, owns and manages Potters today. “Half a century is a real landmark, an opportunity to reflect and fully appreciate all that has been accomplished.”
The 1960s spirit of innovation
Joining William Potter in what was a general farming business, his two sons Ron and Ken saw an opportunity in rearing pullets but, not satisfied with the available rearing cages soon started to design and manufacture their own. This spirit of innovation has characterised Potters from its earliest days.
Olivia and Justin Potter are the grandchildren of William, children of Ron Potter and now head the company – with Olivia in charge of pullet rearing and Justin heading the equipment division. “From cages in wood and wire, the earliest electronic controls to egg collection and feeding systems and metal cages, if Potters saw a need, we designed and manufactured equipment to meet it,” said Justin, who after studying agriculture at Harper Adams gained experience of poultry farming in South Africa before joining the family business. “Then as now, Potters equipment is designed to be fit for purpose and built to last.”
“We were also one of the first, if not the first company, to provide our customers with Farm History Packs detailing the birds’ progress throughout the rearing period,” added Olivia, who returned to the family business after studying at Manchester University and moved into managing the farms and their sales.
“Justin has his division to run and I have mine; it is 50-50,” said Olivia, “but whilst they are separate, we also work very closely if that is what the customer requires: pullets, housing or equipment, including aftercare. It gives us something very unique to offer the poultry industry.”
Potters offers a wealth of experience
Having been egg producers themselves for many years means that the Potters team can offer a wealth of experience. “We are farmers at heart,” said Olivia, “We understand our customers’ need for consistency and quality. Our highly knowledgeable field service team, are very technically minded, but also believe in looking at things from the chicken’s point of view: it can help to identify problems and issues before they impact on production. They are experts at getting the best health and performance from a flock and keep abreast of new challenges, and new products – especially what is available in terms of vaccination and gut health - to ensure birds meet target weights, whilst reducing mortality.”
On the equipment side, Potters’ 50 years of experience also pays dividends, Justin believes. “We can now take a project from its very earliest stage and provide a complete poultry system, so that you only have one point of contact for all that you need. Also in many overseas markets, cage-free production is still in its early days.”
Potters an international operation
Time and again, throughout the company’s past 50 years, progress has been accelerated by innovations that set standards throughout the UK, and now the world.
From the UK, and their network of carefully selected international dealerships, Potters will design and custom build equipment to meet their customers’ needs. “This ability to tailor make equipment is invaluable when so many of our customers overseas are converting old or existing buildings,” said Justin. “A Potters’ designer can work alongside the design team at the local dealership; everything we sell can be installed and serviced locally.”
“Our first exports were to South Africa,” continued Justin. “And, whilst the UK market remains a leading priority, in the last five years we have made contacts, and contracts, all over the world. We are now expanding in the USA, South America, the Middle East, Australia and Asia, markets where there is tremendous scope. Until now, many of these markets have relied on manual labour: they are now finding that our automatic equipment improves egg quality, production results and profitability.”
Potters remains a family business
Just like the three generations of Potters, many families have been involved with the company for generations. “Potters is very much a family business,” said Olivia, “and people certainly seem to enjoy working here. Poultry specialist Antony Taylor, who has over 20 years’ experience in the industry, has now joined our team as sales and marketing director and will be helping us to increase our growth in both the pullets and equipment sector in the UK and overseas. We are delighted to be celebrating our 50th anniversary and are certainly looking forward to exciting times ahead.”