Innovation, invention and eggs: An interview with James M. Nield
Nield entered the egg industry in 1966 as a sales engineer with Diamond International.
Jim Nield progressed to sales manager and in 1975 was appointed president of the company. In 1983, along with David Keen, he purchased Diamond which was then subsequently sold to the Talon Group. He continued his association with Diamond, assisting with marketing, trade shows and engineering. When the company was sold to Moba in 2008 he established Detroit Design Group, an engineering firm specializing in the development of egg processing systems and other industrial technology.
His achievements include the development of the first 120-case per hour grader in 1975 and the Diamond 8200 series in 1983. In 1990 he was instrumental in introducing in-line egg breaking. Nield received the first USDA approval on a multi-row egg breaker in 1994. He holds patents for cages, graders and breaker-separators. Jim has served as chairman of Allied Industry for the American Egg Board and United Egg Producers and has served as a member of the Exhibitor Committee for the International Poultry Exposition.
Egg Industry: You have started an engineering company, Detroit Design Group. What will your Group be doing?
Jim Nield: I decided to initiate a number of projects which would apply my expertise gained over 42 years. I was joined in this endeavor by six engineers who wanted the opportunity to be very creative. We are working on improving egg grading, inoculation of eggs for human vaccine production and have untaken projects in robotics.
EI: Who will be working with you in DDG?
JN: We have an outstanding group of mechanical, electrical and software engineers. It is exciting to have four generations of talent in one room. George Bliss who developed the first blood detector in the late 1940s, and then crack and dirt detectors, is as creative as ever even though he is approaching 90 years old. Our engineers range from the 20s right on up. The output from brainstorming sessions has been very productive and the passion and knowledge they have for the industry really moves the projects along very quickly.
EI: What is your biggest surprise since you have returned full time to the industry?
JN: I'm amazed at how three separate engineering groups from three different disciplines can work so well together. Our teams communicate freely through video conferencing and frequent trips with great suggestions and mutual respect for each other's knowledge and experience. I'm also pleasantly surprised to see how many of our potential customers are embracing the development of a new generation egg grader.
EI: Who has influenced you in your career development?
JN: In the early days George Page and George Bliss, who founded Page Detroit were extremely influential. Page Detroit eventually became Diamond Automation. Both mentors gave me great ideas and challenged me to succeed. Over the years I have enjoyed working with both our customers and the team at Diamond.
EI: What innovations do you foresee in the future?
JN: Equipment will incorporate designs which will enhance both efficiency and food safety. Maintenance costs will be reduced and the equipment will be easier to clean and monitor under operating conditions. Working environments and the physical appearance of plants will continue to improve. Egg consumers will drive higher quality finished products. This will be especially important as the market continues to move from generic to specialty eggs which command a premium based on real and perceived attributes.
EI: What other changes do you envision?
JN: We will see improvements in egg packaging and especially in graphics in order to market products which are more attractive to consumers when viewed on the supermarket shelf. We will also use the carton to improved traceability extending from the farm to consumer.
EI: Do you have any other message to the industry based on your extensive experience?
JN: I believe that U.S. farmers are the best in the world in terms of producing the most economic and the safest foods. It is our destiny to remain global food producers. To this end we should continually apply new technology and advanced methods of production through the entire chain extending from field to the market place. Mechanization will play an important role in harvesting and processing of grains, in live bird production, post harvest processing, and packaging of eggs and poultry meat.